(Jana Carver/GTCC)

(Jana Carver/GTCC)

By Jana Carver

Ednalyn Hurley has been giving children memorable Christmases since 1994.

For more than 20 years, Hurley has led the effort to help Guilford Technical Community College’s single parent students provide gifts for their children during the holidays.

According to Hurley, it all started with one student.

“I had a student who approached me … she was a single mother, and she said she needed help with Christmas,” said Hurley, who is a counselor at GTCC’s Counseling Center and runs the Single Parent Support Group on GTCC’s Jamestown campus. “She asked if I knew of any services that could help, and I told her I’d look into it. … After that, I started to wonder if other single parents might need help as well.”

From that conversation, Edna’s Kids Christmas Drive was born. The program gives GTCC employees and students, as well as members of the community, the opportunity to sponsor a single-parent household and provide Christmas gifts for their children. This year, 22 sponsors provided gifts for 37 children.

“The GTCC family has been very generous in providing sponsorship for our students’ kids,” Hurley said.

The Christmas drive has allowed sponsors to give more than just toys under the tree. Hurley recalls a sponsor whom she said went above and beyond to improve a child’s quality of life.

“I had a parent who had a special needs child, and the child needed some sort of breathing equipment,” Hurley explained. When the family’s sponsor (a former GTCC instructor) heard that the single mother couldn’t afford the breathing apparatus, Hurley said he paid for it himself.

“The mother was so overwhelmed that he would not only buy gifts for her kids but also give something that was so crucial to her son’s life,” Hurley recalled. “She was overwhelmed. We all were.”  

Over the years, Hurley said she has been proud to see former students, who have benefited from the program, come back to sponsor current single parent students. She said that watching them find success and reach a place where they can give back to something that once helped them gives her joy.

“Christmas is about giving and receiving,” Hurley said. “The opportunity to see all these beautiful children with their smiling faces and the opportunity to make their Christmas bright … it’s the magic of Christmas.”

That magic can be seen in the excitement the children share whenever Santa drops by the Edna’s Kids celebration luncheon, which Hurley hosts every year. The luncheon not only serves as a fun event for the kids, but also allows parents to meet sponsors and thank them for their support.

GTCC student Dawnnita Ford said she is grateful for the help Edna’s Kids and the Single Parent Support Group have given her.

“We’re getting ready to move, so things have been crazy,” she explained. “This means a lot because I wasn’t able to do a lot.”

Ford is the mother of four boys and is currently preparing to enter GTCC’s nursing program.  She said she doesn’t know what she would do without the support that GTCC and Hurley have given her.

“It’s a great help to single mothers,” Ford said.  “It helps us know we’re not alone.”

Donations for the Edna’s Kids Christmas Drive are received year-round. To donate, visit foundation.gtcc.edu and click “donate,” or mail checks to:

Edna’s Kids

c/o GTCC Foundation

PO Box 309

Jamestown, NC 27282

All donations should specify Edna’s Kids as recipient.

For more information on the Single Parent Support Group, contact Ednalyn Hurley at 336-334-4822, ext. 50272 or ekhurley@gtcc.edu.