Each year CK’s Tavern and Grill in Ahwatukee Foothills hosts a Holiday Wish Tree for kids at Crisis Nursery but this year the number of kids they’ve been asked to help has nearly doubled.

A small tree covered in paper gingerbread men has graced the front entry way of CK’s Tavern and Grill for the past six years. Each year the staff at Crisis Nursery puts the gender, age and wishes or need of a child on each gingerbread person and the public is asked to choose one child to purchase a Christmas gift for.

Executive director of Crisis Nursery, Marsha Porter, is a regular at CK’s and in talking to owner Kendra Fleetwood one year, they decided hosting a tree was an easy way to help.

“Having the restaurant gives you access to so many more people,” Fleetwood said. “Every year people step up. It’s amazing. Some people take one and bring one gift back, some people take one and bring back every single thing on the list. We’ll take anything.”

The first year the tree at CK’s held only 30 children. In the past few years they’ve been able to help 60. This year they’ve been asked to grant 100 wishes.

“The kids we put on the tree are usually from our early childhood education center and our shelter and both of them we’ve increased our capacity this year, which means we’re serving more children, which is good, but we have more children to provide holiday stuff for,” Porter said.

Crisis Nursery is a safe place for kids. Parents experiencing tough times can drop their kids off at the facility while they search for a job or the help they need to take care of their kids. Other kids are brought to Crisis Nursery when they are taken into the custody of Child Protective Services.

The center also has an early childhood education center called FACES (Families and Children Experiencing Success), which serves at risk pregnant women and young kids. This year extra grant funding made it possible for the center to open three new preschool classes so FACES is serving 45 more 3- and 4-year-olds. The shelter also opened up eight new beds, due to need, which Porter said amounts to about 70 more kids per year coming through the shelter. In addition to kids in the early childhood education center and the shelter, the center supports more than 100 kids living with foster families.

“Most of these kids don’t have new clothes, never have new clothes or new shoes or new toys to call their own,” Porter said. “Anything the community can do to help us help their families celebrate Christmas is certainly appreciated.”

Fleetwood said so far it’s been hard to tell if CK’s will be able to clear its tree. They’ve already gotten some gifts in but there are still plenty of tags on the tree.

“A lot of times it’s a last minute thing,” she said. “People come in here to eat and they grab a child off the tree. They take it home and come back a week later to drop off the gift. When you go to the mall and they have the trees it’s a little bit pricier to find a gift at the mall. Here you can pick a wish and go find some deals and bring it back.”

People who select a child off the tree can fill the entire wish list or select just a few items to donate. All donations are accepted. Gifts should be returned unwrapped, to where ever the tree was. Kids whose tags are not selected off the tree will still get a gift but the community’s help makes the gifts go a lot further, Porter said.

CK’s Tavern and Grill is located at 4142 E. Chandler Blvd.

For more information on Crisis Nursery visit www.crisisnurseryphx.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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