Coca-ColaChristmas.jpg

Coca-Cola employees deliver bags of Christmas gifts for eleven area kids to Richland County Children's Services.

MANSFIELD -- Santa's reindeer may have had the day off on Monday, but a certain polar bear was busy delivering presents to the offices of Richland County Children's Services.

Representatives from Coca-Cola's Mansfield branch, including the brand mascot, stopped to deliver bags of gifts for 11 children being cared for by kin in the area.

"Adopting" local children is an annual tradition for the Coca-Cola sales team, but this year, the giving expanded to the whole office. Tags with children's ages and wish lists we're hung on an office Christmas tree, where employees could take one and start shopping.

"We had a wish list from children's services that gave us exactly what they were looking for and what they needed ... Anything from winter boots to learning games to clothes to socks," said Diana McClain, office coordinator and stewardship captain for Coca-Cola. "Everything that they had needed and even a few things that they might have wanted is thrown in there.

"We actually got more than what we requested from our employees. They've got giving hearts."

According to Nikki Harless, interim executive director for Richland County Children Services, each of the children adopted by Coca-Cola are in "kinship families," which means they are being cared for by family members other than their parents.

"I truly thank God for Coca-Cola adopting the 11 children," said Rhonda Marsh, kinship navigator for RCCC.

Unexpected care responsibilities can put kinship families under financial strain. Unlike foster parents, these families don't receive stipends to help cover the cost of caring for a child.

"There are so many caregivers taking care of children who cannot afford to give them a Christmas because they didn't have that (built) into their retirement plan," Marsh explained. "It's very hard for them to buy for children that they didn't think were going to be in their home."

When asked how the grandparents, aunts and uncles respond when they pick up their gifts, Marsh got teary eyed.

"(They're) crying, very joyful that someone picked their children to adopt for Christmas," she said. "Just overwhelmed, truly overwhelmed."