Christmas angels: Local mom organizes gift drive for kids in need
Cynthia Prout has been matching kids in need with hometown Santas every Christmas through Savannah’s Angels for seven years running. And while the effort can feel overwhelming at times, she says she can’t imagine not doing it.
Last week, Prout had decided to stop accepting any more names. Then, she said, she changed her mind.
“I hate to turn kids away,” she said. “I turned away two moms and I felt awful. In all the years I’ve done this, I’ve never turned kids away.”
On Tuesday alone, Prout said, she received 10 new names. She currently is looking for more sponsors for those last-minute additions. Otherwise, she warned, she will have to close down the list.
“I am a first time mom as well as a working mom,” one woman wrote in her message to Savannah’s Angels. “I have a 6 month old baby girl. … We have just finally moved into our own home but our car has broken down and finances will need to go to those things for us to have a home and for me to get to work. Little has been growing like a weed and has little to no clothes that she fits in and has grown to the next size of diapers, which we are able to provide but don’t have much finances for anything else. I know it’s been a difficult year for many and I know this is a slim chance, but thank you for your consideration and everything you do for our community.”
According to Prout, it is these kind of messages that keep her motivated.
“I want to have a back-up plan,” she said. “If we get last-minute kids, I want to have shoppers ready to go. … It happens every year. One year, we even got one kid who didn’t get anything (on) Christmas Day, so we went shopping the day after Christmas.”
Prout initially founded Savannah’s Angels to help new mothers in need of baby items, but over the years it has become primarily about the Christmas present drive.
“I started this for people like me, to help the parents who work but can’t afford to buy the presents and pay the bills,” she said. “It blossomed from there.”
Prout said the number of kids she helps varies from year to year, with a high of about 200. This year, her list numbers about 140 so far.
“There are not more kids, but the need is greater this year,” she said. “I think a lot of people who were working before aren’t now. … It’s hard times right now and I don’t see it getting better.”
Those wishing to add children to the list or become sponsors can go to the Savannah’s Angels Facebook page. Prout is building a website for next year.
“People message me, I don’t ask questions — if they say they need help, I help,” she said.
Once Prout receives a child’s name, age, size, wishes and needs, she forwards that information to a sponsor. The sponsor then shops and brings the items back for delivery. This year, thanks to Realtor Teresa Dietrich, Savannah’s Angels will have office space for drop-offs and pick-ups by appointment.
There are no limits or requirements set for the sponsors, Prout said, adding, “It all works out.”
Prout admits the work is time-consuming.
“The first year I did it by myself, I think I did 114 kids,” she said. Since then, she added, she has been blessed with helpers including Crystal Grauke.
Prout’s own wish list includes a few more crew members, finding some guidance in becoming a legal nonprofit and securing funding for much-needed items like a computer and a better cell phone.
“I’m not so great, I’m just putting the names with the sponsors,“ Prout said. “The thanks goes to the people in the community that are so generous … In this community, it’s about helping. It’s amazing, this county has a lot of love. Nobody wants people to be without.”
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at email@example.com.
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