BEARing gifts: Local nonprofit provides presents for thousands of children in need

HOUSTON – This week, all hands are on deck for one local nonprofit. Dozens of volunteers and caseworkers are putting together gifts to give to thousands of children in need just before the holidays.

Be a Resource (BEAR) is a nonprofit that helps thousands of children in Child Protective Services.

"Everyone here deserves a holiday that can be remembered. We can look back to our childhood and look back at the items we've received -- even if we didn't get what we wanted ... well, these kids don't have that so we're trying to form that for them," Michelle Searle, BEAR program coordinator, said.

While the nonprofit provides necessities for children all throughout the year, this season's main operation is the organization's BEARing Gifts program, which helps more than 11,000 children get toys or gifts for the holiday season.

In a warehouse on TC Jester, volunteers work on packing and unpacking gifts to be stored at the warehouse or given to caseworkers who are looking to give their children presents this holiday season.

"So today, we're helping with the caseworkers who come in that maybe have child wish lists," Raven Fournier, a volunteer, said.

Fournier is with dozens of employees of MaloneyBailey who took time Wednesday morning to help organize and help caseworkers "shop" for their wish lists. The BEARing Gifts program starts months in advance, when caseworkers turn in a wish list with each child and their wants for Christmas. Those gifts are sponsored, bought or donated to meet each child's want. Those gifts are stored at the warehouse, where caseworkers can pick them up, or they can pick up gifts that volunteers pack.

Caseworker Lisa Maddox has 16 children whom she works with in CPS -- many of whom have experienced hardship or abuse. She said this program makes them smile, though.

"I do have a 16-year-old old... He'll love that. He loves 'Harry Potter,'" Maddox said pointing to a gift, which a volunteer had packed. "Knowing your kids is important... Just to see the smiles and joys on their face -- with these Christmas gifts, I know there will be a lot more."

Others donated carloads of gifts still waiting to be claimed.

"I take one kid and then started thinking, maybe I can do more," said one donor who brought a whole carload with donations from this woman's church.

The BEARing Gifts Program is expected to wrap up by week's end. However, the organization is always accepting donations.

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