Local businesses, Eastern Regional Center help provide Christmas for 90 children

mhankerson@newsobserver.comDecember 20, 2013 

Zebulon native Thurston Debnam, a partner at the Smith-Debnam law firm, provided gifts for 18 children in eastern Wake County.

PHOTO COURTESY OF KIM BUNN — PHOTO COURTESY OF KIM BUNN

— For some children in Wake County, Christmas isn’t necesarily guaranteed.

But with the help of the county’s Health and Human Services Department, the Eastern Regional Center and other local businesses, 90 children will be able to have Christmas.

Each year, businesses who are part of the Friends of the Wake Guardian Ad Litem program provide support to families who are part of the foster care or relative placement program.

Eastern Regional Center social worker Kim Bunn said in eastern Wake County, there are usually extended family members who have taken in a child.

“Grandparents take in children and are given a very minimal amount of money and lots of them are on disability with a very fixed income,” Bunn said. “They want the children to stay within their family but basically have not got the means to do that, especially not Christmas (and) not anything extra.”

The Christmas support program uses $150 per child to buy Christmas gifts.

“Without the generosity of other people they would have no Christmas,” Bunn said.

The Raleigh-based law firm, Smith-Debnam, provided gifts for 18 children, with the majority of those 18 living in or around Zebulon.

One of the partners of the firm, Thurston Debnam served as Zebulon’s mayor from 1989 to 1993 and said he felt like helping the people of the town was just a continuation of work that has long been needed in the community.

“There’s just a lot of people who need help so it just seemed like a natural fit for us as a way to give a little bit back,” he said.

Years ago, Debnam was contacted about assisting in sending a group of Zebulon students on a trip to Washington. What struck him most about the request was that it reported 84 percent of students were part of the free or reduced lunch program.

“I thought, ‘Wow, there’s got to be a huge need for the kids out there’,” he said. “It just seemed like a good place to put resources.”

Although the program only requires donors to spend about $150 on each child, Debnam said he knows a few staff members and attorneys spent a little more than that.

“This is a good way to share your good fortune with people who really need it,” he said.

Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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