TLC Community Center to host ‘Sensitive Santa’ for children in need

With Christmas coming soon comes a host of traditions, but for many families, disabilities or financial situations block them from many of the festivities. A community center in Elizabethton hopes to remove those barriers.

Angie Odom, director of the TLC Community Center in Elizabethton, said the Christmas Dinner is a way to give children a chance to interact with Santa in an environment friendly and free of loud noises and lights.

“A lot of kids with sensory issues cannot deal with all the lights and large crowds like at the mall,” Odom said. “Santa is going to be in a separate room without all the noise. If the kid does not want to sit on Santa’s lap, they can stand next to him.”

The dinner is free to “anyone who has children,” and families who either cannot stay to sit down and eat or are worried their children will not be able to stay can take their food to go as well.

Odom said every child who comes to the dinner will walk away with a Bundle of Love, a donation program the center has been working on for months and will be organizing this afternoon.

Odom said the dinner is a continuation of a variety of efforts the center has made to provide spaces of love for the community.

“In the past, we used to decorate the courtrooms and children could visit their parents who were incarcerated,” Odom said.

She said she hoped the dinner would show children who need the support the community cares about them.

Odom said the number of families who attend vary wildly based on weather and other factors, making planning ahead the most difficult part of the dinner.

“One year we had over 600 people, and another year it snowed so we had significantly less,” she said. “You just have to plan the very best you can.”

Odom said she remembers the good programs like this do for the community in her interactions with the families who visit. She said she has known some families for many years and have watched them grow up.

“Four or five years ago, one mother brought me a gift bag,” Odom said. “It was a little fuzzy blanket, and I still use it all the time. It was a little reminder of how much a little gift can mean to someone.”

The center will be organizing the Bundles of Love this afternoon, starting at 2 p.m. Those wishing to participate in either the Bundles or the dinner can contact Odom at 423-895-8601 or stop by the center at 145 Judge Don Lewis Boulevard for more details.

The dinner will take place on Friday, Dec. 21.

“My whole family gets to be a part of this,” Odom said. “You cannot top that.”

As for how her programs better Carter County, she said seeing the good the center does shows her “Christmas comes early every year.”

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