By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Sunbeam Family Services, in partnership with the Oklahoma City Police Department, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office and TRIAD volunteers – senior citizens working with law enforcement to promote senior safety – will host a holiday party for grandparents raising grandchildren on Saturday, December 3.
The celebration will provide Christmas for more than 200 families, with gifts for approximately 600 children from 10 a.m. to noon at First Presbyterian Church, 1001 NW 25th St., in Oklahoma City.
According to the Sunbeam Family Services website, in the United States, more than a million children are being raised by grandparents without the presence of parents in the home.
Sunbeam’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren holiday program helps grandparents like Micki Petty who often must choose between providing Christmas for their grandchildren or paying bills.
Petty is a grandmother raising her two grandchildren in a one-bedroom house. Due to limited resources, she hasn’t purchased new shoes for seven years so that she could buy clothes for her grandson and granddaughter, who are now 13 and 15.
KFOR reporter Lacey Lett interviewed Petty who stated, “We live in a very small house, but we’re all happy, and we’re all together and we’re a family.”
The annual party will include family pictures, cookies and punch, visits from Santa Claus, as well as from Briscoe, the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s mascot.
“We consider the annual Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Holiday Party a celebration of grandparents, for all that they do for their grandchildren,” said Andrea Sneed, Sunbeam Family Services Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) program director.
The law enforcement agencies and community partners provide funding for the event that benefits families in Sunbeam Family Services Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program.
“For many of them, it is the only Christmas they will have,” Sneed said
Each child fills out a sheet describing their favorite color and a wish list of basic things they would like to receive for Christmas. With lists in hand, the agencies go shopping to gather gifts to be delivered during the holiday party.
According to Lett’s report, Deputy Kim Lopez with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office said, “We have one grand family that is raising 13 kids by themselves, when I looked at their sheet, it literally brought tears. Everyone wanted their own blanket last year.”
Starting in 2003, the GHG program received funding through Title III-E funds, which are administered by the Areawide Aging Agency. Grandparents, 55 years old or older, who are raising their grandchild or grandchildren in absence of parents, living in Oklahoma, Cleveland, Canadian, or Logan counties, are given support and resources.
An integral part of the program, TRIAD is a collaborative effort between the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, local police departments and senior citizens that works to reduce and prevent crimes against senior adults.
Founded in 1907, Sunbeam Family Services is one of Oklahoma’s longest serving nonprofits, providing people of all ages with help, hope and the opportunity to succeed through early childhood, counseling, foster care and senior services.
For more information, visit sunbeamfamilyservices.org or call Andrea Sneed at 405.609.6551.