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The joy of giving

AFES is accepting applications for Community Christmas; Nonprofit organization will provide gifts to families who need them

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Charles Clayton, executive director of Athletics for Education and Success, poses with a football and soccer ball in the AFES gym on Friday. AFES is continuing its Community Christmas this year, where the organization provides gifts for families in need. The deadline for families to apply for gifts is Dec. 5.

It’s the belief of Charles Clayton that every child should have at least one gift under the tree at Christmastime.

That’s why Clayton, executive director of Athletics for Education and Success, has continued a program called AFES Community Christmas. AFES Community Christmas took the place of Operation Christmas, a program that for six decades provided toys, clothes and other items to families in need.

“I’m just big on every kid should have something under the tree,” Clayton said. “So when an opportunity came along to take this over from the group that did it for over 40 years, I thought it fit perfectly with AFES and something that fits our model.”

AFES, a nonprofit organization that provides after school programs, is preparing for another Community Christmas in 2021. Webster County families are asked to fill out an application in order to receive gifts. Applications can be picked up at AFES, 712 Third St. N.W. Families can schedule a time to pick up the applications by calling 515-955-2969.

AFES is preparing enough gifts for 400 children. That will come at a cost of between $7,000 and $10,000, according to Clayton.

The Community Christmas is built into the AFES operating budget.

“People donate money,” Clayton said. “It’s also just part of our normal operation budget. We know what it will cost. Our expense is anything we don’t get donated. Even ABATE of Iowa — Doug Smith donates toys every year. He does a big toy run. Anything we don’t get extra, we buy food or clothes. We try to get each kid one outfit, the family gets some food and hygiene products and then they also get toys. Food, hygiene and clothes are probably our biggest expenses.”

Clayton said food is gathered from the Food Bank of Iowa. Target also donates food and gifts, Clayton said.

Residents can also choose to sponsor a family for the Community Christmas.

Clayton is grateful for the support AFES has received from all over the county.

“It’s another great example of how this community always steps up to help those in need,” Clayton said.

Clayton recalls receiving gifts as a child through generous organizations in Fort Dodge.

“Growing up I was one of those kids that remembers going to get gifts from other places in town,” Clayton said. “The Toys for Tots or Salvation Army. God has now blessed me to not be in that position personally, but if I can help others its a no-brainer.”

Volunteers will help organize and carry the gifts.

“We have volunteers here to take stuff out,” Clayton said. “Usually we get some high schoolers. They’ve got the young arms and legs to help.”

Knowing that Community Christmas effort brings joy to many makes it all worth it.

“You’ll see kids in the car with a smile on their face or we’ll let them come inside to pick up the gifts,” Clayton said. “Every kid should have something under a tree.”

Families who qualify will be able to pick up the gifts on Dec. 19.

Information

What: Athletics for Education and Success Community Christmas

Why: To make sure children have gifts at Christmastime

How to help: Call 515-955-2969

To apply: Families are asked to fill out an application in order to receive gifts. Applications can be picked up at AFES, 712 Third St. N.W.

Families can schedule a time to pick them up by calling 515-955-2969.

• Applications due Dec. 5.

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