Share Your Christmas (SYC) "elves" were busy this past week, working to make the holidays brighter for over 110 families in the Barry County area.
Last Thursday, volunteers took on the task of dividing up hundreds of donated toys among the 112 area families who signed up for the 2006 SYC program. The fellowship hall at the Cassville United Methodist Church was filled with a large variety of toys, which ranged from board games to stuffed animals to Barbie cars.
As much as possible, the volunteers try to fill each child's individual requests for specific toys. Because of the large number of toys donated to SYC, these requests are more easily filled.
"People are so generous and donate such neat toys," said Gail Jenkins, director of the OACAC Barry County Neighborhood Center, which helps coordinate the SYC effort. "We've really had a great response from the community, and the toy donations have been wonderful this year."
Although toys were distributed to families last Friday, the Neighborhood Center expects to hand out toys to at least another 150 children before the week is over.
"Things happen to families and we'll be here until Friday afternoon, handing out toys and trying to help," Jenkins said. "If there is a need out there, we'll make sure it gets filled,"
In addition to distributing toys, Share Your Christmas also buys an outfit for each child along with underwear and socks. Older children receive vouchers that can be redeemed at Wal-Mart, Dollar General, Classy Review, Small Change or Surplus City. Infants receive baby clothes as well as quilts handcrafted by the Ozark Country Quilters.
This year, SYC families also received a laundry basket filled with household items such as detergent, towels, soap and cleaning supplies. These baskets were assembled by members of First Baptist Church of Cassville.
"That fills such a need for our low-income families," said Jenkins.
Families can also sign up for food baskets through the SYC program. This year, 50 families will receive baskets.
According to Jenkins, Share Your Christmas is still accepting donations of toys and monetary gifts. Checks can be mailed to: Share Your Christmas, 907 Main St., Cassville MO 65625. For more information, call Jenkins at 847-2140.
Members of the 2006 Share Your Christmas Committee include: Bertie Bailey, Barbara Warren, Beverly Ledenham, Bobbie Tucker, Sylvia Sturgeon, Cheri Shumaker and Jenkins.
Last year, the Share Your Christmas Committee spent $9,252 to purchase toys, clothing and vouchers. This total does not include donated items.
Jenkins said the Share Your Christmas program is vital to caring for the needs of low-income families during the holiday season, which can be a stressful time for those who are financially strapped.
Jenkins, who has worked at the Neighborhood Center for the past 13 years, has experienced first hand what it's like to need some extra help during Christmas. She remembers when her son, Keenan, was 5, and wanted a bike for Christmas.
"I told him we can't afford a bike and he said, 'that's okay Mom, Santa will bring it,'" Jenkins said. "I didn't now what I was going to do but then on Dec. 7, my birthday, the people I worked with at the time took up a collection and bought a bike for Keenan. It's the best birthday present I ever got.
"On Christmas morning, Keenan saw the bike and said 'See Mom, I told you.' That was, for us, an example of people going out of their way to help another family, and that's what Share Your Christmas is all about," Jenkins said. "This is the best program I've ever been involved with."