View the Foundation’s 2019 Summary of Grants – available here!
It was the wish of our founders, Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones, that children whose families are homeless during the holiday season receive a gift on Christmas. As such, The Rees-Jones Foundation has funded nonprofit organizations across North Texas since 2009 for that purpose. Because of this partnership, children residing in homeless shelters are able to experience the excitement of discovering what Santa has left under the tree; a collection of memories so many of us are fortunate enough to hold dear.
This year, given the hardships compounded by COVID-19, the Foundation felt this initiative was especially needed. The Foundation granted a total of $42,000 to 14 organizations that will provide 1,832 children with Christmas gifts and holiday meals. Among those organizations are SafeHaven, The Family Place, and Interfaith Family Services.
The mission of SafeHaven is to end domestic violence through safety, support, prevention, and social change.
Domestic violence survivors and their children leave everything behind to start new lives, and often arrive in emergency shelters with only the clothes on their backs. Celebrating the holidays while in shelter brings a sense of normalcy back into the lives of these families, and SafeHaven works hard to ensure that Christmas is a magical holiday for all children who have witnessed domestic violence. Christmas gives these children the opportunity to be surprised, shows them that they are loved and matter in this world, and helps them look forward to the possibility of better things in the future.
SafeHaven will be hosting a virtual version its annual Santa’s Sack Toy Donation Drive this year. As opposed to the traditional, community toy drive orchestrated in years past, donors are asked to make purchases through SafeHaven’s online wish lists this year.
In the days before Christmas, mothers who are staying in SafeHaven’s shelters are able to choose gifts for each of their children in a store-like experience.
“SafeHaven is committed to making this year’s holiday memory heartwarming, ensuring that survivors and their children will remember Christmas in the shelter for years to come,” said Amy Hampton, private grants manager at SafeHaven.
The mission of The Family Place is to empower victims of family violence by providing safe housing, counseling and skills that create independence while building community engagement and advocating for social change to stop family violence.
“Our agency recognizes how difficult Christmas feels for our children when they are not able to spend time with their family or loved ones due to the physical violence they have experienced,” said The Family Place. “We aim to bring ‘normal’ experiences, joy and laughter to our children during these challenging times.”
In previous years, The Family Place would host large Christmas events during the holiday season. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the staff at The Family Place will be holding smaller, socially-distanced events for the children with fun activities like decorating Christmas cookies and ornaments.
In addition to the intimate Christmas gatherings, The Family Place will continue its tradition of offering parents the opportunity to “shop” for Christmas gifts for their children. The Family Place creates a store-like experience for parents using donated Christmas gifts such as laptops and headphones for adolescents, and Legos and baby dolls for the younger children.
The mission of Interfaith Family Services is to empower families in crisis to break the cycle of poverty.
“This year, we are looking forward to our largest Christmas Store ever,” said Jessica Rood, director of development for Interfaith Family Services. “We have seen 10-12 times the number of families reaching out for assistance this year, and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that it will be difficult for many families to put toys under the tree.”
This year, IFS will be hosting a socially-distanced version of its Annual Christmas Store, which allows parents to “shop” for Christmas gifts for their children, and where children are given the opportunity to shop for their parents. Among toys and educational games, the store also offers a selection of books, pajamas, winter coats, and other clothing.
The Annual Christmas Store is stocked with gifts through the support of community toy drives. IFS staff and volunteers then coordinate the set-up of the store, which will take place in its newly built Family Empowerment Center in the Lower Greenville area of East Dallas. Partnered with a shopping buddy to guide them through the store, IFS families will be able to shop and visit the gift-wrapping center. The store is truly a one-stop-shop for the client families and graduate families of Interfaith Family Services.