Aleris helps struggling families with Christmas gifts

Aleris helps struggling families with Christmas gifts
The Clanton family (Source: Family photo)
The Clanton family (Source: Family photo)
Dawn Packard (Source: NBC12)
Dawn Packard (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Every year, we hear from families who could use some help at Christmas, and each year someone calls us looking to adopt "one" family.

This year we found a match for not just one family - but for three. They met at the NBC12 station.

Parents and grandparents who called 12 for help picked up their childrens' gifts and got to thank the company Aleris, that's making their wishes come true.

Melina Clanton is a hardworking single mom, a sous-chef and a college student pursuing a degree in hospitality management. Her top priority: the happy faces in her family photos, David and Syarah.

"David is my 17-year-old. He's my big boy," said Clanton. "He's my gamer/artist and he works really hard in school."

"Syarah is seven and she is my tomboy. She's like me. She's a little girly. My little pony/monster high 'grrrr.' That type of girl, but she's sweet."

Melina's longtime friend told NBC12's Diane Walker about this amazingly strong woman who provides for her children yet feels inadequate when she can't buy them gifts. Getting help from Aleris at Christmas means the world to her.

"It would mean everything, because they would be happy and I wouldn't have to worry so much," said Clanton. "I'm going to cry...It's a stress reliever. But I'm happy that someone thinks of us that way to be able to help. Not everybody gets that opportunity to have someone help them, especially around this time of year."

Melina meets her Christmas angels from Aleris, an aluminum products maker.

"My wife and I went out and did a little bit of shopping, and of course other folks from Aleris contributed," said John Sexton. "To know your story and to be able to go with a purpose to know that we were really helping your family out - that made it special for us and we hope it puts a smile on their faces."

And it definitely will, based on Melina's reaction.

Dawn Packard is a proud mom who says she is raising a brilliant little math genius.

"He's in 5th grade and has always had perfect attendance, and until this report card which I have not seen yet, he has had straight A's," said Packard. "He does need some winter clothes. He needs some jeans. Some shoes. Coat. Winter boots maybe."

Packard says Franklin, nicknamed Mack, has become withdrawn after his father died of cancer this past August.

"He was my best friend for 35 years, and without him I just feel totally lost, and I know Mack must feel the same way, because the two of them were inseparable," said Packard. "It would be a relief to see my son happy about something again. I was stressing about how I as going to handle any upcoming expenses. I only get SSI, so it's not something I can afford to do."

A couple weeks later, Packard met company reps from Aleris.

Lisa Karl, a financial officer with the company, was Dawn's personal shopper, but she says everybody pitched in.

"It just makes you feel good to be able to help someone else, because some day that might be me," said Karl. "You just don't know. So, it's a great feeling."

Packard can't believe so many people came together just for her and Franklin. Aleris' Chief of Operations Brian McCallie says giving back to the community is what they do.

"I hope they have a very happy Christmas, and I hope the children...maybe we get some bright smiles, some bright eyes on Christmas Day and some parents that are really relieved in a time when it can be difficult," said McCallie. "Then I know that we've done something great for their families."

Great Grandmother Laura Macri says she cannot provide a decent Christmas for her grandchildren on a fixed income. She can only provide the basics. One grand son lives with her and the other with his grandpa.

"Before he came to live here, they were living in shelters, moving every couple three days from shelter to shelter," said Macri.

She wants to surprise both grandsons with a good Christmas.

"It would mean the world to me. This kid is so good and been through so much that to give him a good Christmas, that would be wonderful," said Macri.

Laura meets her Christmas Angels from Aleris, an international company that makes trim coils, aluminum gutters, downspouts and siding.

"I was so lucky to get picked, and I was thrilled to death," said Macri.

Both boys get drones, a gaming system, lots of clothes, gift cards and a cross - which the grandson living with Laura specifically asked for.

Tim Osborne with Aleris reached out to 12 On Your Side a few weeks ago.

"I chose this. I've seen you on TV doing this type of work, and you were the first person I though of to reach out to," said Osborne.

He and the committee made it happen in two weeks for three families. In each case, even giving gifts to the moms and grandma when they didn't ask for anything. A large undertaking that was well received and nicely presented.

"A lot of times, you give to an organization, you don't see the results," said Osborne. "This is fantastic. I get to see their faces. It makes it special."

"It's just wonderful. There are no words that can really say how wonderful, how thankful I am that they get to have a Christmas," said Macri.

Aleris says giving back to the community is an outreach mission they carry out throughout the year. They gave the gift of hope to struggling families at the holidays, and 12 On Your Side thanks them for their generosity.

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