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Christmas Connection’s “Christmas in July” seeks gifts of rent, utilities

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 6:52 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2020 at 10:08 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Christmas Connection is a tradition in Tallahassee. It’s been helping hundreds of families have a brighter holiday each year for the past 40 years.

Now, the Christmas Connection is launching “Christmas in July.”

“I think the Christmas spirit is huge in December, and we’re hoping it’s going to be huge again in July,” Christmas Connection Coordinator Lisa Harvey said.

This time around, the Christmas Connection is not asking folks to donate toys or bikes or brand new clothes. Instead, it’s asking them to donate money for rent and utilities.

“To keep somebody, their family in their house, to keep their utilities on...that’s the biggest gift of all,” said Matthew Knee, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida.

The phones are ringing off the hook right now at Catholic Charities, which runs the Christmas Connection and provides emergency assistance to families in Tallahassee year-round.

It’s now getting an estimated 12,000 to 14,000 calls a month, which is up about 40% since COVID-19 shut down many businesses and forced thousands out of work. The latest numbers from Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity show nearly 15,000 people out of work in Leon, Gadsden and Wakulla counties.

"We have callers calling us that have never called before, that have fallen behind, that have never reached out for help before and the stress that they're feeling is tremendous," Knee said. "How am I going to feed my family? How am I going to keep my lights on? How am I going to explain to my children that we have to move all of a sudden?"

Christmas Connection's "Christmas in July" is hoping to help families pay off mounting bills until they can return to work and get back on their feet financially. The bills are verified with payments going directly to utility providers and landlords, Knee said.

"We want to help people who are in financial crisis. It takes the whole community to pitch in and help and every little bit helps," Harvey said.

Here is a link if you’d like to donate to the Christmas Connection’s “Christmas in July.”

Thousands of families in our community have been hit hard by this pandemic. WCTV will be sharing some of their stories this week on Eyewitness News at 6.

Monday

A Leon County woman laid off from her job as a caregiver due to the COVID crisis was worrying how she'd support her two children and pay her mounting bills.

The woman was able to use her stimulus check to pay her past due rent, but couldn't pay her utility bill.

Christmas Connection - via Catholic Charities - stepped in to help. The woman has since found a new job and is back on her feet financially.

Tuesday

A Gadsden County woman who lost her manufacturing job quickly found herself facing mounting bills and panicking at the thought that she and her young child could wind up homeless.

The Christmas Connection - via Catholic Charities - was able to bring her up to date on her rent. The woman has since been rehired at her job and is again self sufficient.

Wednesday

A Leon County mother of six was laid off from her job as a hotel housekeeper due to the COVID crisis.

She was not able to collect unemployment, and her financial situation is dire.

The Christmas Connection via Catholic Charities was able to pay off her back rent.

With the tourism industry still struggling, the woman is still looking for work.

Thursday

A Wakulla County woman who owns her own cleaning business found herself in a tough spot as COVID prompted many of her clients to cancel.

She made enough money to pay her rent, but was on the verge of having her utilities disconnected. She worried if she'd continue to provide for her young child.

Christmas Connection via Catholic Charities was able to pay off her past due utility bills and business is slowly improving.

Friday

A Leon County woman was laid off from her job at a local university.

She stalled in her efforts to get unemployment and worried about how she would support her three children without any income.

Christmas Connection via Catholic Charities was able to provide emergency assistance and bring her rent up to date.

She’s since been called back to work and is trying to get back on her feet financially.

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