CFCC’s Holiday Helpers to brighten season for local children

Patsy and Joel Aiken stand next to the boxes of brand new childrens clothing donated for the CFCC Holiday Helpers program.

Patsy and Joel Aiken stand next to the boxes of brand new childrens clothing they donated to the CFCC Holiday Helpers program.

This holiday season, hundreds of local children will have a brighter holiday season, thanks to the generosity of local businesses, individuals and the Cape Fear Community College Foundation.

Over 150 community donors recently gave over $14,000 to help more than 140 CFCC student families through the Holiday Helpers program.

Established by CFCC Foundation board member Betsy Leonard in 2005, Holiday Helpers was started to support CFCC students with children who are struggling financially during the holidays.

“The focus of the program is to ensure that the children of hard-working students would be able to experience the joy of knowing Santa Claus remembered them on Christmas morning,” said Leonard.

After a careful vetting process to ensure each student meets financial need requirements, students are awarded gift cards so they may purchase toys, gifts, food and clothing for their families during the holidays. In some cases, donors choose to accompany students on shopping trips.

Anjanette Hare was one student who received assistance from the Holiday Helpers program this year. Hare is studying pre-elementary education at CFCC and has three children – an 18 year old son serving in the Army, and two younger children, a boy and a girl. When Hare’s husband suddenly died in June of this year, she soon found herself overwhelmed with medical bills and funeral expenses.

As the holidays approached, Hare feared she wouldn’t be able to afford Christmas presents for her kids. Although she normally doesn’t like asking for help, Hare applied for holiday helpers. After the terrible year they had been through, she didn’t want them to endure another disappointment so she applied for the program and was accepted.

“I am overwhelmed at the kindness I’ve been shown,” Hare commented as she met with Jennie Price, who works at CFCC and volunteered to accompany Hare on a holiday shopping trip.

On the shopping trip, Hare picked out games and toys for Christmas gifts. She was very selective and wanted to make sure she made the most of the money she had to spend.

Hare purchased several board games. She said she wanted to create a standing family game night each week. She said since her husband’s death, she’s trying to spend as much time with her family as possible. “When something like that happens so quickly, it makes you think – don’t waste a minute,” said Hare.

“I can’t express how grateful I am for the help I’ve received this year. The last six months have been more of a struggle than I expected. My teachers at CFCC really worked with me this summer when everything happened, and now this. My goal is to get my degree through NC Wesleyan after I finish my associates degree at CFCC. NC Wesleyan offers classes at CFCC, so I’ll never have to leave,” said Hare.

The Holiday Helpers program has grown dramatically since its inception in 2005.

“In the first years of the program, about 50 students received assistance,” said Dana McKoy, Director of Annual Giving at the CFCC Foundation, “but because of the dedication of our volunteer committee, more than 140 CFCC students and 300 children in the Wilmington area will experience the joy of the holiday season this year.”

The Holiday Helpers committee consists of program founder Leonard and long-time volunteers Marietta Gwathmey, Jane Rippy, Madeline Trask and Joyce Vietto, who support the program through personal networking with friends, and social, civic and religious organizations.

“The outpouring of support this year for the Holiday Helpers program has been tremendous,” said Leonard.

“This is just another indication that our donors value the importance of community college education by helping worthy students who are striving to help themselves and ultimately use their education and vocational skills to become a vital part of the community in which they and their families live.”

The Cape Fear Community College Foundation exists solely to support the students, faculty, academic programs and mission of the College. The Foundation secures and manages gifts and grants, including cash contributions, planned or estate gifts, securities, donated services, and equipment and supplies for educational purposes. For more information about CFCC, or about scholarship opportunities, please contact the Cape Fear Community College Foundation at 910-362-7207 or