An Indiana preschool director is ensuring that her students have a memorable holiday season — even if that means she has to work a second job to make some extra cash.
As the holidays approached this year, Renee Dixon knew it would be a tough time for many of the families at Lynhurst Baptist Church Preschool in Indianapolis, The Washington Post reported.
"So many of our families don’t have money to get Christmas presents this year. Some parents have lost their jobs, others have had their wages cut back," Dixon, 47, told the outlet. "A lot of them already come from low-income families and are below the poverty line."
So the preschool director decided to take matters into her own hands and get a second job working as a ride-share driver, where she could earn additional money in order to buy all 50 of her students — plus their siblings — holiday gifts and winter clothing.
Since November, Dixon has been driving for Uber and Lyft from 6 p.m. until 1 or 2 a.m. on weekdays, and an additional 12 hours on Saturdays as well as six hours on Sundays, according to the Post.
"I can't rest," she said. "These kids need me."
The idea to pick up a second job first came to Dixon in 2016 while she was working as a classroom teacher, Good Morning America reported. At the time, she was saddened to learn that many of the parents could not afford Christmas gifts for their kids.
"I know how that feels, and I never want a child to ever feel that things you dream about never, ever come true," Dixon explained to GMA. "Or that things you pray about never come true, or that the world isn't fair because of their living situation."
After moving on to become the director of Lynhurst Baptist Church Preschool in 2018, Dixon continued working for Uber to buy presents for the kids at her school, GMA reported.
But this year hit hard as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy, causing many parents at the school to lose their jobs, which led enrollment to decrease by 50%, according to GMA.
Dixon also suffered her own hardships, losing three family members to COVID-19 and turning to Lyft to make money after there was a decrease in demand for Uber rides, the outlet reported.
"This year, with COVID and everything that has really been taken away from the kids, at no fault of their own, I had to do something," Dixon told GMA. "The location of where the school is, it's not in the best neighborhood, but we make the best out of everything."
Each time Dixon earns $100 from her rides, she takes the money to Target and purchases toys, games, and dolls for her students, who range in ages 1-12, according to the Post.
Many members of the community have offered to help Dixon with her efforts, chipping in money, gifts or even their time to accompany her on her shopping trips, the outlet reported.
So far, Dixon has earned more than $2,500, which is enough money to give each child two presents — one from the school and one from their parents, or Santa, according to the Post.
An Uber spokesperson tells PEOPLE that the company has matched the money Dixon has earned to date.
"We're humbled by Renee's kindness, and we're delighted to help her efforts go twice as far for her community," the spokesperson said. "With this gift, we're wishing Renee and her students a safe and joyful holiday season."
Dixon is also giving $50 bonuses to all 12 of her teachers and gifts to the students' siblings, GMA reported.
"This is something everyone should be doing," she explained to GMA. "Taking care of kids and making sure people's needs are met and kids' needs are met, that's something everybody should be doing, and all-year-round, not just at Christmas."
Since all of Dixon's money is going toward her students and families, her daughter Vemirah Johnson noted that she and her sister will not be receiving Christmas gifts from their mother this year, the Post reported.
"My mom has always had a love for children. She is always looking to help younger kids at this time of year," Johnson, 26, told the outlet, adding that they don't mind not receiving gifts and have even helped Dixon pick out presents for her students.
With thousands of dollars already under her belt, Dixon said she has no plans on stopping her drives until every child's need is fulfilled.
"I can’t give up, even after Christmas. They still need coats and hats and boots," Dixon told the Post. "Everything I’m doing is for these kids right now. Their world has turned upside down, and it’s no fault of their own. They deserve this from me."
"And I want people to know that we as early childhood educators, we're out here with you fighting," Dixon added to GMA. "We are here, too, and we are trying to make the best of this situation."
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