Christmas Bureau Brings Smiles, Love To Topeka Families

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Families who asked the United Way's Christmas Bureau for help in bringing Christmas to their homes will all wake up to something under the tree this holiday season.

Bureau workers are all finishing up now after a final push to get all the families on their list adopted. Even those that weren't adopted by another family will still get taken care of.

The Plakio family welcomed a special delivery Wednesday night: presents, groceries and diapers - all courtesy of the Christmas Bureau.

The real sense of family coursing through the Plakio household, combined with loving words, warm hugs and huge smiles, made clear the real impact of the Christmas Bureau.

"I appreciate it," Joyce Plakio said. "It just makes me feel happy because they get to open up something for Christmas. I feel really blessed because we wouldn't have had a Christmas."

Louis Plakio, Jr., Joyce's uncle, was at the house when they received their presents. Reflecting on seeing his nieces and nephews grow up before him brought tears to his eyes.

"Family is everything. The Plakio family is strong," he said. "I really appreciate it, everything everybody's doing for my niece."

Seeing happy faces and excited kids is why Co-Chair of the Christmas Bureau Weezy Holmes says it is a success each year.

"That's when you get bit and that's when you say, I'm doing this again next year."

She said we try to teach kids the real meaning of Christmas, spending time with family, but that seeing a present really picks up a child's spirit.

"It is still kind of sad when they wake up Christmas morning and there's nothing under the tree."

For the past month, Holmes has directed what's often described as "organized chaos" around the Bureau's planning room, matching families with adopters and divvying up the thousands of dollars in donations for those who remained.

"We will make sure they have a warm meal and something under the tree."

Holmes said each year the hardest to adopt are single-person families, teenagers (because people think they're harder to shop for) and older/elderly folks. That remained true this year, but will be taken care of.

"They're still our Topeka community family and they still need someone to care and love them."

Holmes says every single toy, every canned good translates into love, so that for future years more families can be just as excited as the Plakios were Wednesday night. They could barely wait to open their gifts.

"I know they'll be bugging the mess out of me all the way up until Christmas," Joyce Plakio said with a smile. "I might let them open one but we'll see. I'll probably have to hide them!"

Holmes said many families each year ask for basic survival items, like food. She said it's hard for many to conceive that a canned good would break the bank, but that it's a reality for many in Topeka.

"When they come to us at Christmas time, this is a welcome relief for them. Yeah, there is a certain pride, yeah I don't want to but this is something I need to do. It means a lot, that I can put that on my plate and have that for dinner today. It means a lot just to have a basic dinner."

About 2500 hundred families, or roughly 8,000 individuals, applied for adoption in 2013. Only 90 were not officially adopted but will receive gifts and gift cards bought with the surplus of donations.