The Barry County Share Your Christmas program provided toys and clothing for around 135 families and over 380 kids this year. More children will receive gifts through the program this week.
"With all of the talk about the economy, I think everyone was concerned when we started this year," said Gail Reed, Barry County OACAC director, "but the donations were wonderful. We received lots and lots and lots of toys.
"We also received a lot of monetary donations," said Reed. "We had good support from the school and a lot of volunteers. It was really good."
On Dec. 18, Share Your Christmas volunteers collected hundreds of toys from area businesses and collection sites. The toys were sorted and packed at the Cassville United Methodist Church last Thursday morning.
On Friday, parents had the opportunity to pick up the sacks of toys, which included large and small gifts and stocking stuffers for each child in their family. Many of the toy bags also contained a game or sports item for family members to enjoy together.
"This program is important to the people who receive the gifts because in a lot of cases these are the only items their children will receive for Christmas," said Reed. "In other cases, the gifts help parents make their children's Christmas a little better."
In addition to receiving several Christmas gifts, Share Your Christmas provides kids with new clothing. Children under the age of 13 receive one outfit, socks and underwear. The program also provides blankets and other baby items for infants.
Parents receive $40 vouchers for children between the ages of 13 and 18 who still attend school. Vouchers, which are redeemable at several local businesses, allow parents to shop for older kids who ask for specific gifts.
"The Cassville High School cheerleaders helped us sort and pack clothing this year," said Reed. "We really appreciate all of the volunteers who helped sort items, pack toys and pick up toys. We couldn't do it without them."
The program would also not be possible without Share Your Christmas Committee members Bobbie Tucker, Bertie Bailey, Sylvia Sturgeon, Cheri Shumaker and Trish McCracken and OACAC staff members Reed, Julie Bland and Deb Martell who oversee the gift collection, packing and distribution process.
"This means a lot to the people who work for the program because it is a way for them to give back," said Reed. "Even individuals who can't afford to give monetary donations enjoy helping by volunteering or buying a toy that they know is going to a child in need.
"It is a way for you to share the good things in your life with someone who is not as fortunate," said Reed. "It is a great program that gets a great response. This year's response was as good or better than years in the past."
In addition to receiving a record number of donations this year, more local organizations adopted needy families this year.
"We had lots of adoptions," said Reed. "I think we had double the number of individuals and organizations that adopted families than we have had years in the past."
On Friday, Share Your Christmas received an extra boost from the Cassville High School Student Council, which raised over $10,000 for the program. The funds were collected through the school's annual Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas contest.
Sophomore Paige Lynxwiler and junior Colby Reavis collected the most money for Share Your Christmas and were named as Cassville High School's 2008 Miss and Mr. Merry Christmas.
"I would like to thank the community for all of the support," said Reed. "We are so appreciative of all those community members who help by volunteering and everyone who donates to the program. Having the whole community involved is what makes this program work."
Share Your Christmas accepts donations throughout the year. Individuals interested in supporting the program should call Reed at 847-2140.