Ariyaunna Montgomery found a Baby Alive doll, a coat, gloves and Shopkins under the Christmas tree last year.
Great presents, indeed. But the little girl’s mother said the true gift she picked out for her daughter from For Love of Children’s Christmas for Kids program was the gift of literacy.
Demeshia Montgomery said Beth Mann, FLOC’s president, tailored help for Ariyaunna after being told the little girl needed help reading.
Mann’s 90-year-old mother, retired Kent State University English Professor Betsy Hoobler, has been tutoring Ariyaunna since.
A 10-year-old also mentors the girl, a first grader at Trotwood Madison’s Early Learning Center, in reading.
“I love the program. They are just so friendly. They try to help with everything,” Montgomery said. “They are just good people. They really are.”
Montgomery suffers from scleroderma, an autoimmune rheumatic disease, and says she has physical limitations.
“It is hard for a 7-year-old to take in that I am so sick,” she said. “(Ariyaunna) needed emotional support and help with the school.”
Montgomery said her daughter had to repeat kindergarten, but has reversed the course with FLOC’s help.
“She can read much better now,” she said. “Now we are directing the focus towards math.”
WHAT IS ‘CHRISTMAS FOR KIDS’?
FLOC, a 25-year-old volunteer-driven organization that raises funds to provide enrichment and educational activities for Dayton area children, provides toys and other gifts to more than 2,200 children in the Miami Valley annually.
Several companies are collecting toys for the program.
The FLOC Cottage is located at 131 N. Ludlow St in downtown Dayton.
Mann said the toys will be given to needy Dayton schoolchildren, as well foster children under the care of Montgomery County Children Services.
Aside from Christmas for Kids, FLOC offers a formal attire boutique for teens, a grant-a-wish program, a duffel bag program for youth entering foster care, education for young parents, a birthday program for foster children, the Betsy Hoobler Skill Center for tutoring and mentorship, an annual anti-bullying rally, Read to Me, and Blessing in A Bag, a program that provides meals on the weekend for needy children.
“Everything that comes to us goes to the children we serve,” Mann said.
She said the toy collection program is particularly special.
“It is a phenomenal experience for our volunteers -- you get to see the joy of the holidays,” she said. “You get to share the magic.”
Kristen Olfky began volunteering for FLOC through her employer, Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz. The law firm is a major FLOC promoter.
She said her father, the late Ray Olfky, always went above and beyond to make Christmas special when she was a kid.
“They were amazing, we never had to really want for anything,” Olfky said. “I think every child deserves to have an amazing Christmas and an amazing life.”
As part of her work with FLOC’s Christmas for Kids, Olfky picks up and drops off toy barrels at local businesses.
All the running around is more than worth it, she said.
“It is just really rewarding to see the smiling faces of these kids or their parents who have been stuck for a while,”Olfky said. “I love to see the outcome of what good people can do to help children who have been abused or neglected or whose parents just cannot afford (toys).”
Beth Mann is the wife of Doug Mann, the law firm’s managing partner.
Somerville resident and recent Brigham Young University graduate Hannah Byrd started at FLOC as an intern, but is now a volunteer.
She said she loves to help kids in multiple ways.
“Children, they are naturally kind and innocent so they are the best for me to work with,” Byrd said.