EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: As a public service to our community, this is the second in a series of six weekly articles for the annual Edmond Sun Christmas Samaritan Fund Drive benefiting the HOPE Center of Edmond.
Jennifer Iwuchukwu said she was blessed 19 years ago by generous donors to The Edmond Sun Christmas Samaritan Fund Drive benefiting the HOPE Center.
“HOPE Center is the group that brought Christmas to my family,” said Iwuchukwu, 27. “They provided a lot of gifts and other services. In particular I got a doll house that I remember most of anything. And for a child, that lights up their day and is something they never forget.”
More than $2.92 million in temporary emergency assistance for those in need has been provided by Samaritans since The Edmond Sun began the charitable fund drive in 1989.
“For a child, that is so important — Christmas time,” said Iwuchukwu, a senior at the University of Central Oklahoma majoring in general studies.
All of the proceeds from the Samaritan Fund Drive allow HOPE to keep up with an increase in clients qualifying for temporary emergency assistance. The food and clothing closet for Edmond area residents offers a women’s prenatal health clinic and limited emergency financial assistance for rent and utilities.
This year’s goal of $160,000 was set to provide more than one-third of the HOPE Center’s $400,000 annual budget, said Brenda Chambers, financial coordinator. Success is measured by the lives touched by HOPE, Iwuchukwu added.
“You feel a sense of belonging that you’re a part of the community just by someone reaching out and helping you,” Iwuchukwu said.
HOPE Center is not about being poor or needy, she said. Inspiration is given to those to move beyond a crisis, Iwuchukwu said. As a result, a sense of accomplishment is evident in former HOPE Center clients.
“When they give back, you can tell it’s not that they want any recognition, they are just so pleased with themselves that they can help,” said Chris Sperry, executive director.
Children helped by HOPE Center are tomorrow’s leaders, Iwuchukwu said. They will become physicians, writers, teachers, firefighters and policemen.
“It’s something they will remember and later on contribute back to the community,” Iwuchukwu said.
She has volunteered UCO service hours to HOPE Center in 2009. Iwuchukwu said all of the workers and other volunteers she met working in the clothing area were kind and supportive.
Her volunteerism has also extended to Kiwanis, a volunteer community service organization in which Iwuchukwu serves as a collegiate sponsor.
“We currently will be adopting children from the adopt children program through the HOPE Center,” Iwuchukwu said of the adopt a family for Christmas program. “So it’s a full circle of how you change one person’s life and (that) can triple just by you helping one child, one mother or one family.”