To mark World Autism Day and raise awareness of caring for children with disabilities, Albertsons Market kicked off a Shop & Share drive Monday with a ribbon cutting and City of Odessa proclamation that brought together the Odessa and Midland chambers of commerce.

The event was held at the Market Street store on 42nd Street in Odessa.

John Jameson, regional vice president of United Supermarkets, said it seemed right to start Shop & Share on World Autism Day. Jameson said the register donations will be available at stores in Odessa, Midland, Lamesa and Seminole. Whatever each community raises will stay in that town.

Shop & Share will run through April 15, a news release stated. When customers check out, they will see a digital prompt inviting them to contribute. If shoppers want to, they can add a donation to the ticket total, a news release said.

Albertsons Market Street is a longtime sponsor and participant in the Autism SHARE Walk, set for 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 28 at Grande Communications Stadium, 801 N. Loop 250 West in Midland, the release said.

Albertsons will provide manpower and food for the SHARE Walk, the release said. SHARE stands for Sharing Hands: A Respite Experience.

Jameson said this was the first year the stores have supported the SHARE Walk in this way.

“I’m excited because not everybody can make the walk and put a team together, but this way everybody that comes into the grocery store can contribute a little or a lot as they’re checking out. It gives the autism SHARE Walk an opportunity to reach more of the public,” Jameson said.

The Rev. Tom Jones, executive director of SHARE, said Albertsons stores have helped the SHARE Walk grow from 300 people to an expected 3,000 to 4,000 later this month.

“All the funds that are raised through our autism walks stay local. They help SHARE provide support services for families that have kids with disabilities,” Jones said.

Some of the services include respite care that allows families to spend time on their relationships and keep their families healthy.

“We also provide family support programs, holiday events for our families, as well as parent support groups. Finally, we offer support for the siblings. They’re the ones who are forgotten so often. We give them support and help them build a support system of other brothers and sisters that are in similar situations,” Jones said.

CBS 7 anchor Jay Hendricks read a proclamation for autism awareness and special needs recognition month, through April 30. Hendricks said this is the ninth year for the walk.

Last year, SHARE served more than 200 families with its programs.

“Our locations where we provide services are in Midland and Odessa, but we have families that come from Andrews, Crane and other smaller towns that don’t have the resources. We serve 19 counties in West Texas. If they’re willing to come to SHARE in Midland-Odessa, we’ll serve them,” Jones said.

“We’re working to try to find ways to provide some services in those smaller towns, maybe some in-home respite care that we can provide. We’re trying to reach out into the community where there aren’t very many resources and have some support for those families that live there,” Jones said.

SHARE has six full-time and one part-time employee and uses about 100 volunteers year-round. Jones said they also have 40 contract workers who provide care on Friday nights. Twice a month in Midland and once a month in Odessa, parents can drop their children and brothers and sisters.

Classes are offered for each one of them with about three to five youngsters per class. They are supervised by two to three adults and activities such as movies, games and crafts are offered, Jones said.

This is offered so parents can go on a date.

“Some of our parents have not been out on a date in years because there’s nobody to watch their kids. It gives them a chance to focus on their relationships and it’s really just a gift of time that they can use to rest, or connect with friends. They use it for different purposes. It helps them relieve stress and it does improve relationships,” Jones said.