All Antonio Wilson wanted for Christmas was an Easy Bake Oven. Perhaps an unconventional choice for 2016, but not for eleven-year-old Antonio who loves to cook and dreams of one day becoming a chef. “He wants to cater to and serve other people,” his mother Chyvon says. On weekends, Antonio can be found volunteering at his neighborhood church, helping to prepare community dinners – always looking for ways to get cooking experience.
FACT: The original 1963 version of the Easy-Bake Oven cost a hefty $15.95. That might not sound like a lot, but adjusting for inflation, it amounts to $127 today. Despite the price, the Easy-Bake Oven sold half a million units in its first year on the market and sold 23 million by its 50th Anniversary year in 2013. (Source: www.thedailydot.com)
As much as Chyvon wanted to support her son’s dream, last Christmas she simply could not afford this wish list item. Antonio’s little brother Caleb suffers from such extreme asthma that Chyvon stays home to care for him, leaving them as a single income family. “With the state’s qualifications, we aren’t considered for food assistance, but we struggle to make ends meet since we have so many medical bills,” Chyvon explains.
This wife and mother of two makes tough decisions every day about how to spend her family’s money. “There are times we have enough money for food and expenses, but the children may need something like socks or underclothes,” she says. Many Central Indiana families find themselves in a situation similar to Chyvon’s family; their income exceeds the threshold to qualify for public assistance programs, yet they are unable to cover their basic needs items.
When Chyvon’s family moved to Indianapolis in 2015, they were struggling financially and unsure of where to turn. As the weather got colder and her children needed coats, gloves and undergarments, Chyvon had to make a difficult choice. Did she give up Christmas dinner to provide the necessary clothing for her children?
Chyvon found a glimmer of hope when she connected with a social worker at School 57 who referred her to United Christmas Service (UCS), a United Way program that assists families in need during the holiday season. “It was a blessing,” Chyvon says. Once her family qualified, they received a voucher she could use at local stores to buy basic needs items, food and toys for her children. “It was such a weight lifted off our shoulders, I was so happy I didn’t even know how to express it! It was just what we needed.”
Last Christmas, warm coats, socks, gloves and underclothes waited under the tree for Antonio and Caleb. What else was there? You guessed it. An Easy Bake Oven. “Antonio was so happy and excited, the first thing he wanted to do was bake brownies for everyone,” Chyvon recalls. After unwrapping their gifts, the brothers made little brownies and curled up by the tree to read books from the Wimpy Kids series; Caleb’s special Christmas gift.
With the help of UCS, Chyvon didn’t have to choose between Christmas dinner or clothing for her children. That night, her family spent quality time enjoying a Christmas dinner of ham, macaroni and cheese and collard greens. “United Christmas Service helped me provide beyond just what my boys needed, it allowed us to buy a few special toys so they had gifts to open too.” Every year since 1952, UCS has created holiday magic for families in need.
You can help parents just like Chyvon “play Santa” and help wishes come true by donating to United Christmas Service at uwci.org/ucs.
On the second Day of Giving, United Way gave to me …two cheerful brothers, and one way to help my community. Help United Way of Central Indiana share the Wilson Family story at uwci.org/blog.
Stay tuned tomorrow for our Third Day of Giving.