For the 4th year, Royal Community Hugs is working to build relationships in the Royal Slope community and assist families in need during the holiday season, and program organizers are still soliciting donations in order to increase the potential benefit.
The project was created by Royal City Police Chief Darin Smith, who organizes each year’s program alongside his wife, Angie Smith. Darin uses his experience with residents of Royal City to identify families experiencing financial difficulties, who the Royal Community Hugs charity helps support by paying rent, utility bills, car repair and groceries during the winter, helping them focus on providing their children with a Christmas free from fiscal strain.
The group also looks to support families who’ve lost a loved one during the previous year by providing them with a memorial wreath. Due to the nature of Darin’s work, he often knows families who’ve recently lost someone, Angie said.
“He is often the one to notify families, and this way it’s not the last time they see him,” Angie said.
Local families also help support these efforts by pairing up with a family in need by decorating trees, providing food baskets, giving household supplies and otherwise assisting with financial burdens. For instance, Katie Allred has taken on the task of making the memorial wreaths.
In some instances, families who’ve been supported by the Royal Community Hugs program in years past have stepped up to pay back the act of kindness. A memorial wreath was donated to the Weyns family, who had recently lost their son Justin to cancer, during the first year of giving,. In years since, Justin’s brother, Brendon, has baked cookies and other goods to give to other families receiving wreaths.
In another case, a senior from Royal City High School responded to receiving support from the program by reaching out to Angie, asking how he could help a family in need like the Community Hugs group had supported his family previously.
Last year the program received donations from around 120 individuals totalling $22,000, not including time, labor and cookies volunteered. Those looking to donate to this year’s efforts can contact Angie or Darin via Facebook, including through the Royal Community Hugs Facebook page. The group expects to support at least ten families this year, and new families in need are identified each year.
Though the Smith’s may have started this yearly charitable program, Angie said that the family recognizes that it reflects the nature of the Royal Slope community writ large.
“As Darin has often said, this heart for giving was already in the community,” Angie said.