COURTESY MAGIN PATRICK
Magin Patrick helps bring holiday cheer to hundreds of children.
Christmas gifts program for homeless kids grows
Magin Patrick receives plenty of strange looks as she wanders the streets dressed as an elf. She doesn't mind. She prides herself on being one of Santa's efficient helpers.
Patrick delivers Christmas gifts to hundreds of homeless children on the Big Island each year.
"We don't just redistribute the toys ... it is hands-on. I see the joy it brings to the kids, and it is worth any money, time or energy put in," she said. "Originally, it may have been a Barbie on sale; now the gift is priceless."
This year, she is expanding her services to families on Oahu. About 100 homeless children and their families will enjoy dinner with Santa and a holiday party next Thursday.
Games, crafts, gifts for the kids, personal hygiene packs and healthy snack bags will be distributed. Keiki attending the event are being referred by Homeless Solutions. "We were fortunate that lots of people are coming to volunteer for craft and game tables," said Kaylene Oyama, a volunteer in charge of the Oahu event.
As a youngster, Patrick herself was neglected and often left to care for her three siblings. "We were not poor. My mom just didn't care," she said. "We didn't have clean clothes or food."
Patrick didn't give up or turn to drugs or alcohol. "I always knew that there was something better out there. If you know somebody cares, that can help you change your life."
When she was 17, Patrick began volunteering at a shelter for abandoned teens in California. She organized parties, bringing pumpkins on Halloween or setting up Christmas activities. At 19 she had her own business and was raising a child and volunteering at a halfway house for girls.
Her volunteer efforts evolved into her Christmas Wish Program. Patrick distributed thousands of toys to children in California before moving with her family to Hawaii in 2002. "There are so many homeless children here, it is sad."
She visited the homeless on beaches lined with tents and tarps. She also visits the battered-women's shelter.
The Christmas Wish Program, established in 1988, operates year-round on the Big Island, providing services for the major holidays, back-to-school, summer camps and fundamental programs. It is run by volunteers, and 100 percent of donations received benefit the children.
"I have no doubt in my mind ... this is what I was born to do," said Patrick.
Despite its name, the program reaches beyond the Christmas holiday. Patrick has added Easter and Halloween programs. "The holiday spirit of giving should continue year-round."
She also provides hot meals and necessities to homeless residents on a regular basis, and has started an after-school reading and tutoring program. Keeping kids in school is one of her main concerns.
When she counts the program's success stories, Patrick cites kids who would have never gone to college if they were not encouraged. "We let them know that they are worth something -- that they don't have to live like this forever," she said. "Two homeless moms recently got their GEDs and are attending nursing school."
The key is to break the cycle of homelessness or abuse in the family, added Patrick. "We want them to get over the poverty mentality."
She has helped move about 20 families off the streets this year. "The families owned land but could not afford to build. We helped to get materials and find contractors."
Patrick believes that one of the main things these kids need is someone to believe that they are worthwhile. "It feels good to bring something back to life that has died in their heart. We want them to know that they can lean on us until they get on their own feet."
HOW TO HELP
To volunteer for future activities:
Call: Kaylene Oyama, 295-1936; e-mail Kaylene@hawaii.rr.com
On the Big Island: Call Magin Patrick, 808-982-8128 or e-mail HelpingHands@ChristmasWishProgram.org
Note: Volunteer slots are full for Saturday's Christmas event, but monetary and gift donations are being accepted.