Waukesha alderman sees both sides of Christmas Clearing Council
Ybarra shares personal experiences of holiday charity
With his dad by his side, 6-year-old Quaid Ybarra reached up to the microphone at a recent Common Council meeting and had a simple message to those in attendance.
"Please give to the Christmas Clearing Council," the son of Alderman Paul Ybarra said.
It wasn't a pitch for himself, as he'll most likely get all of the presents on his Christmas list this year.
Instead, it was a pitch for the thousands of other children just like him who are making out a list to Santa and hoping all of their wishes come true.
However, without the CCC of Waukesha County, a longtime nonprofit organization that promotes and coordinates giving to families in need during the Christmas season based on income, residence and placement, items from their list would not get checked off.
Specifically, close to 4,500 children in Waukesha County received gifts from the CCC last year.
Ruth Page Jones, executive director of the CCC, said 3,772 children are registered this year. As of Monday, about 2,100 of those children have been assigned to a sponsor.
Alderman a supporter
These numbers aren't lost on Ybarra.
"Every year many children in Waukesha go without presents underneath the tree for numerous reasons," he said. "Sometimes a job loss, sometimes medical expenses, but sometimes just tough economic times. The Christmas Clearing Council has made sure that doesn't happen in our county, so if you are in position to help, it's a great charity."
Ybarra would know; he's been on both sides of the CCC. As a child growing up in Waukesha with his brother and sister, Ybarra's parents divorced.
"Things were tight," Ybarra said. "I didn't grow up with a lot of money."
The holidays can be a difficult time for children when there isn't anything to open Christmas morning. That would have happened to Ybarra if not for the CCC.
"It meant a lot," Ybarra said. "I know it was tough for my mom to ask others to help."
Teaching his children
Now, almost four decades later, Ybarra is the one helping others as he and his family have been sponsors for the last five years, allowing him to experience the other side of the CCC.
"It's touching for me and I get a bit emotional talking about how great it is," Ybarra said.
Money isn't a problem these days for Ybarra and his family (wife Stacey, daughter Zoe, 9, and Quaid). After owning a business in downtown Waukesha for a number of years, Ybarra is a vice president at a global software company.
However, he makes sure he doesn't forget where he came from.
"We don't struggle to make ends meet, but I don't want the kids to take it for granted that everyone gets a lot of gifts for Christmas," Ybarra said. "That's not the case for everyone."
As a result, Zoe and Quaid, who attend Meadowbrook Elementary School, have enjoyed joining their dad in being a voice for the CCC, which sees families like the Ybarras, businesses and churches shop for families (about $60 per child) before dropping the gifts off at their home more than a week before Christmas.
"Quaid, who was more than willing to get up and speak (at the Common Council meeting), enjoys doing the shopping with me and Zoe," Ybarra said. "It's rewarding and it helps them understand that Christmas is about giving back to those not as fortunate."
Forming a bond
Ybarra, who shopped for 15 children one year, said being part of the CCC is significant because of the gratitude the families he has sponsored have shown him.
The handwritten letters he has received from the families mean the most to him, he said.
While a busy work schedule that takes him around the world will prevent him from shopping for presents this year, Ybarra said he will donate two months of his aldermanic salary to the CCC, which he said is about $800.
For him, it's the least he can do after he was given so much when he had less.
"It's inspiring to tell your story and show what a great benefit it is," Ybarra said.
Ybarra, though, is just one of the many individuals who have been affected by the CCC at one point in their lives and are now giving back to the organization.
Showing her appreciation
Ramona Collett is another.
She fell on hard times as a mother of two then-young boys more than 10 years ago.
"My income wasn't enough to pay bills and buy stuff for Christmas," said Collett, of the Village of Butler. "The boys loved it and we were blessed to have someone sponsor us."
She said they were sponsored twice until she could recover financially.
With her finances in a better state, Collett is now showing her appreciation by giving to a family who can't afford to buy its 4-year-old presents for Christmas.
It's the first time the Colletts have sponsored a family and they're enjoying the experience.
"I feel great about it and the boys do, too," said Collett, whose sons are now 17 and 20.
Seeing this kind of reciprocity shows Jones the impact of the organization.
"It tells me that the program is meaningful," she said.
At a Glance
What: Christmas Clearing Council of Waukesha County
Date: Last day to sponsor a family is Dec. 11, but Jones encourages those interested to do so as soon as possible. The gifts need to be delivered to the family by Dec. 12. To sponsor a family call 262-549-6635 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or find a sponsor form online. The CCC office is also open from 6 to 8 p.m. on Mondays.
Other ways to give:
Mail a check to Christmas Clearing Council, PO Box 34, Waukesha, WI, 53187-0034
Drop off new, unwrapped toys to any of the CCC drop-off locations throughout the county between Nov. 1 and Dec. 12. These toys are collected by volunteers and distributed at CCC's one-day Toy Shop in December. Parents participate in the toy shop if their children are not matched with a sponsor family or group.
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