SALT LAKE CITY — Few people face the kinds of difficulties that a homeless family has to deal with every day, or the pain a victim of domestic violence feels. Organizations like the Road Home, Volunteers of America and the YWCA do all they can to make sure that they have the help and support they need in facing crises.
When Christmas rolls around, they also make sure that those barely clinging on have not only help, but also a few gifts for themselves or their children. That's why they all came together to create Candy Cane Corner, a store where families and individuals that rely on their services can find gifts for the holidays.
For 18 years now, Candy Cane Corner has been a place where the community can donate toys, clothes and other items for those in the deepest need can pick up a few items to brighten their lives a bit. It's being sponsored this year by The Road Home, Volunteers of America and the YWCA in Salt Lake City.
"We're really excited to be able to provide for families in need," said Michelle Templin-Polasak, director of community engagement for Volunteers of America, Utah.
Community members donate new items like clothes and toys. Then those in need let volunteers know what their wants and needs are, fill out a few forms, and then come in with a case worker to choose out what they'll be putting under the Christmas tree this year.
This is Susan Ochieng's second year at Candy Cane Village. Last year, she was a victim of domestic violence and lost her home and her job. Thanks to the YWCA, she has a place to stay, got her job back and is even enrolled in school on a scholarship.
"I feel so proud because it helps me a lot," Ochieng said. "Being at the YWCA has made me smile and be what I am."
Candy Cane Corner helps her have gifts under the tree, too. In the next few months, she'll have enough saved up and will be on her own, working, going to school and caring for her three children.
"It's tough, but I know I can do it," she said.
Last year, 530 families received gifts from Candy Cane Corner, which included 1,900 people and 1,200 children.
"I think there are a lot of really heartwarming stories about Candy Cane Corner," Templin-Polasak said. "Many who don't have anything, or have fled their homes or are homeless, they can come here and pick something out for their little boy or girl, or themselves even."
Community members interested in donating can do so until Dec. 23 at 502 W. 300 South in Salt Lake City. Hours are from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Items should be new and unwrapped. Templin-Polasak said that every donation is welcome, but that there is a special need of items for teens, especially boys.
"It really is very meaningful to give people dignity in providing for their families," she said.