Christmas will look very different at St. Vincent’s Villa this year. In 2019, more than 100 volunteers decorated the building, inside and out, creating a magical environment for children living there. This year, COVID-19 restrictions prevent that kind of outside support, another blow in what Mikael Kristiansen, the program’s director of community outreach and volunteer services, calls “a tough year and … a tough holiday season.”

But supporters of St. Vincent’s Villa, which provides comprehensive residential treatment for children whose behavioral and emotional needs require more than community-based services, are finding new ways to step up and deck the halls.

One donor group, the Gathering Point Giving Circle, raised money to pay a professional to hang lights outside the Baltimore County facility, creating bright displays that children can see while playing outside or gazing out windows facing the courtyard. Now, the program is looking for as many activities as possible to keep residents, who range in age from 5 to 14, occupied in positive, creative play. Sports equipment, arts and crafts kits, and games are all at the top of the wish list.

“Since we have to be careful about the use of common spaces and aren’t able to go on outings, our staff are challenged in finding enough things to keep the kids engaged,” Kristiansen said.

Opportunities to spread Christmas cheer

There and at other Catholic Charities programs, there are countless opportunities for donors to provide a bit of holiday love in response to pressing needs – including those listed as part of Gift Tag Tuesday.

Catholic Charities’ Head Start programs are hosting SuperStores, annual pop-up shops that allow parents to shop for their children with points earned through involvement in their children’s education. The shops offer dolls, sports equipment, coloring sets and more  – all donated – giving parents the chance to brighten their children’s holidays in a special way. To donate and help ensure the SuperStores are brimming with festive options, check out the wish lists for the Baltimore City and Carroll County programs, which hope to receive all donations by Dec. 11.

The Weinberg Housing and Resource Center offers the chance to adopt a resident, bringing good cheer to all of the men and women staying in the low-barrier emergency shelter. Contact Nick Jacobsen ([email protected]) to learn more about specific needs. Deliveries are requested by Dec. 15.

Other opportunities to give include sponsoring families involved with Villa Maria Behavioral Health Services to shore up their financial stability as they support their children’s healing. Or donate winter clothing, baby supplies and other basic needs to families in the Sandtown and Brooklyn neighborhoods of Baltimore City where our Safe Streets staff work to stop violence and stabilize communities. More information on these programs and the on-the-ground needs they are striving to meet is available here.