The Holiday season brought a wealth of good cheer to neighborhoods on the West and South Sides during the last weeks of 2016. Christmas in the Wards, a community outreach program, celebrated its 20th year of bringing joy to low income neighborhoods in City of Chicago wards.
The annual event fills the void caused by the high unemployment rate in some neighborhoods, and creates good will in the community. Children in West and South Side wards receive gifts of toys, electronic equipment, and educational devices.
The seasonal party was started 20 years ago by businessman Larry Huggins and fellow businessmen, brothers Everett and Tim Rand. The program was originally known as “Christmas in Englewood” and provided toys for children from low income families. Their mission to serve the underserved remains the same; however, Christmas in the Wards is now established as a 501c3 not for profit organization.
West Side ward residents celebrated Christmas in the Wards on December 10 at Malcolm X College; guests from South Side wards were welcomed at Olive Harvey College, on December 17, by college President Angelica Millender. Between the two events, more than 500 families received 1,000 donated gifts.
“This could never happen without the support of our neighborhood partners” said founder Larry Huggins. “Local and national sponsors generously support our efforts with goods and services, time, and helping hands.”
The generosity of sponsors was so great that Christmas in the Wards coordinators were able to host a second South Side giveaway at the Walmart store in the Pullman community on December 21. Congressman Bobby Rush and Pastor Michael Pfleger distributed computers, toys, and warm hats and gloves to their constituents and parishioners.
Huggins was recognized for his contributions to the program during a brief ceremony at Olive Harvey, as was former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Daley was presented with an award for his dedication and longtime commitment to Christmas in the Wards.