Friday, Dec. 19, 2008 | 1:55 a.m.
For 34 homeless men and women, Christmas will come early thanks to the Christmas Wish List Program.
The program has been implemented in other cities for the past three years, but this is its first time in Las Vegas. Organizers for the Greater Las Vegas Church of Christ’s chapter of HOPE Worldwide, a group that cares for the needy, said they found a need for the Christmas Wish List in Vegas.
They interviewed men and women from the Las Vegas branch of the United States Veterans Initiative, 525 E. Bonanza Road, asking what they needed for the holiday season, then posted the wishes online with a short biography of the gift recipient.
“There is such a huge need and we just couldn’t stand to see that there would be so many people out there that didn’t get anything for Christmas,” Wish List organizer Stephanie Sullivan said. Sullivan said she became interested in the program after she heard about a success story from the program in Canada.
“There was a story about a lady last year and she lost her job, she had four children, and she was able to get her skills and everything she did posted on the Web site and that was one of the stories that people published in the newspapers," Sullivan said. "She actually received a job and is now able to provide for her family."
One Wish List recipient, David Thompson, who is in the U.S. Veterans Initiative's back-to-work program, needs clothes for his new job at the Goodwill, but said the program provides more than that.
“I guess that’s what they do for us, because some of us don’t have families here, they make us feel like a family here,” he said. “And the people come by and help us out with Christmas things to make us feel better, and they do.”
Like the work program, the Christmas Wish List is trying to help the homeless get back on their feet. Todd Hall, president of HOPE Nevada, said people don't always need another meal -- they need a little assistance.
“They just need somebody to give them a break and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.
Two of the gifts already have been received -- one man wanted a bus ticket to Kansas and another wanted one to Texas, both so they could get out of town to start new lives. All other gifts will be passed out at the U.S. Veterans Christmas party on Dec. 23. Anyone interested in donating can go to their Web site and pledge the gift.