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Federal Way Rotary Club raises money for Christmas shopping
Federal Way Rotarians and volunteers met up with 45 students from several local elementary schools at the Walmart on 312th Street to take them shopping for Christmas in 2012. The club's Christmas shopping program was instituted 20 years ago.
Christmas is five months away and the Federal Way Rotary Club is getting ready.
The club has raised enough money so far to take 57 elementary and middle school children Christmas shopping this year.
The club's Christmas shopping program was instituted 20 years ago and for every $100 raised, one underprivileged child is selected from the school district to go Christmas shopping, with an average of 15 to 20 children per year. Since then, the club has been able to up the allowance, giving each child selected $150 to spend, said club secretary Brian Ailinger.
The school district identifies children eligible for the program and recommends them to the Rotary club. Club members or guests of club members are paired with children and sent to the store — often the Federal Way Target or Walmart, Ailinger said.
Shopping chaperones try to ensure primary needs are met, such as warm winter clothes or school uniforms, before turning the children loose in the toy aisles.
When Ailinger accompanies children, he tries to help teach them responsibility, he said. If children rely on their parents to wake them up, he will suggest they buy an alarm clock.
Children often want to purchase Christmas presents for their family also. If purchases exceed $150, the chaperone is responsible for making up the difference, which isn't uncommon, Ailinger said.
On shopping day, the Rotary club hosts all the children for breakfast. Last year the club had to take its 45 kids to the store in three shifts.
During the nine years Ailinger has participated, he recalled shopping last year with a timid Eastern European boy. By the end of the trip, the child — and his sister who was accompanied by Ailinger's wife — were talking and laughing openly.
"You almost couldn't get them to sit down and be quiet," he said with a laugh.
While the gifts are nice, the program is a way for the community to connect with kids at a young age and be supportive.
"It's a different way of giving back," Ailinger said. "It's really about giving the time, not so much the stuff."
Donations to the club are tax deductible and can be earmarked for specific programs.
Funding for the program comes from the club's annual auction, poinsettia sale and individual donations.
For more information, visit www.federalwayrotary.org.