• Family Focus: Local organization helps students during holidays

    By: Erica Bryant

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - For Michael McClain and his daughter, Mikeli, lunchtime at school is very extra special.

    "Her mother passed away three years ago. It's just me and her and I try my best to put a smile on her face every day," McClain said.

    The goal can be challenging because he's unemployed.

    Staff members at Reid Park Academy say he's not alone. Many parents of students here are struggling.

    "A lot of them don't work. And they have multiple children which makes it even harder to provide," said Maelyn Miller, a family advocate.

    More than 90 percent of the children are on free and reduced lunch. During the holidays, presents can be hard to come by.

    So, the Charlotte chapter of Jack and Jill is collecting donations and stepping in to help.

    The organization of African-American women and children will host hundreds of families on the Reid Park campus for an annual event called Breakfast with Santa.

    "They'll meet Santa, receive gifts, enjoy activities and have a free shopping spree," said Allison Brathwaite with Jack and Jill. "It's a way to teach our children about community service."

    Michael McClain benefited in 2012 and he's counting on it again.

    "I had started a job and lost it in just the past three weeks, so it's been a big help to me," he said.

    Out of the hundreds of students at the school who will attend Breakfast with Santa, some will be surprised with extra prizes because of their academics, attendance and behavior.

    The event starts 9 a.m. Saturday at Reid Park Academy on West Tyvola Road.

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