The year without Santa

Published 6:15 am Friday, December 16, 2016

By Melanie Ruberti


The year without Santa


Christmas donations at an all-time low at the Ark Refuge Ministry, Inc.


LaGRANGE – For more than 15 years the Ark Refuge Ministry at 504 East Depot Street has used their “secret connections” to the North Pole and helped Santa Claus deliver toys to boys and girls in the Calumet Village community.


The organization helps families in need with infants and children up to 13 years of age during the holidays. The group usually collects around 120 toys – one for each child – that is then carefully wrapped and delivered to the family’s home on Christmas day.


“We usually give out gift cards for the older children and toys for infants and young kids,” said Yvonne Lopez, CEO of the Ark Refuge Ministry.


But there are slim pickings on presents this year – the organization has received less than 10 donated toys. Christmas is less than two weeks away.


The lack of donations hurts Lopez’s heart.


“This is personal for me. I grew up poor and came from a large family,” she explained. “My grandmother raised us and usually during the holidays she would have to choose between getting us a toy or a coat … or we’d just get a brown sack filled with an apple, orange and a candy cane.


“Children don’t understand that mommy and daddy don’t have enough money to buy presents,” Lopez continued. “I feel like every child should have a new toy to open up on Christmas Day.”


This year, the Ark also partnered with the Calumet Village Association to adopt a family for the holidays.


The family consists of a mom and three children who live in a two-bedroom home within the city of LaGrange.


Lopez said the house has no furniture, except for two mattresses, one in each bedroom.


Dr. Robert Tucker, head of the Calumet Village Association, hopes the two groups can turn this family’s house into a home for Christmas.


“This is the true community spirit of us taking care of each other,” Tucker said. “This is not just meeting a need, but truly helping others.”


“That’s the purpose behind the Ark … is to open our doors and be a light in the community,” Lopez added.


The two groups also hope to mentor the family throughout the year.


Anyone wanting to help with the Ark Refuge Ministry Toy Drive or the Adopt a Family program can call Yvonne Lopez at 404-308-6005.


Here is a list of items needed:


Toy Drive:


*Educational toys preferred for young children

*Gift cards to a particular retail store for older kids – No Visa or American Express gift cards


Family Adoption:


*Adult box spring and mattress

*Dresser (3)

*Night stands




*Lamps (4)

*Sofa and chair set

*End Tables

*Coffee Table


*Gift cards for family to buy miscellaneous items.


The Ark Refuge Ministry will coordinate with people who donate furnishings to pick up items.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.