Making children's wishes come true American Indian Center sponsors holiday gift program for the needy

December 08, 1998|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

The holidays are stressful for most people, but for Dickie Rose Godwin-Locklear, the season has been more difficult than in past years.

Godwin-Locklear's husband, Willie Locklear, 45, has been unable work for six months since he fell off a roof and tore cartilage in his right leg, and she stopped working earlier in the year to care for her mother. With bills to pay, she said, the family doesn't have much left for gifts for her children -- Shena Morgan, 11, and Brian Ransom, 10.

This year Godwin-Locklear, who lives in East Baltimore's Highlandtown, turned to the Baltimore American Indian Center for help. Each Christmas, the center organizes the "Sponsor a Child" program where people in the community fill wish lists of American Indian children in need.

"The program is truly a blessing," said Godwin-Locklear, 37. "Without it, a lot of kids, including my own, would go without on Christmas Day."

The American Indian Center, in the 100 block of S. Broadway, has run the gift program for 10 years, helping more than 250 children each year, said Tina Morgan, an organizer at the center.

The American Indian population in the Baltimore metropolitan area is estimated at 6,000, Morgan said. More than half the population lives below the poverty level. "There's a definite need for this program," Morgan said. "And we're always in need of more sponsors."

The center mostly relies on those outside the community for help, Morgan said.

Dottie Copell of Harewood Park in Baltimore County has been sponsoring children for the past five years. She averages about 60 children a year, buying gifts for one or two and dispersing the wish lists of other children to her friends and co-workers.

"These people have been shut out," Copell said. "I think it's time people come forward and help out."

Last year, Kimberly Smith, who lives in the first block of Patterson Park Ave., faced a situation similar to Godwin-Locklear's. Her husband was unemployed, and the couple didn't have money to get their children -- Amanda, 11, and D. J., 6 -- anything for Christmas.

But this year, with her husband working again, Smith, 32, decided to return the favor. She's sponsoring a 2-year-old girl, who loves all things Winnie the Pooh.

"I thought I needed to give something back," Smith said. "When I needed something for my children, someone was willing to give it to me."

Pub Date: 12/08/98

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