"This year was a lot bigger than last year, probably due to the economy," said Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly. "If it wasn't for the public bringing in all the additional presents, there would be a lot of children without gifts this Christmas.
"I would like to say 'thank you' to all the people who have donated to the annual Angel Tree and made this program a success for the ones who might not receive Christmas gifts otherwise," said Epperly.
This year's Angel Tree effort served 156 children between the ages of 3 months and 16 years. Last year, the effort provided gifts for 120 kids.
Barry County community members donated gift items and money to provide 772 gifts for the Angel Tree effort, which serves children across the entire county. Several donors adopted entire families.
"Angel Tree provides gifts for kids from Shell Knob and Eagle Rock to Monett, in Butterfield and Purdy and down in Seligman and Washburn," said Epperly. "We serve kids across the entire county. It is a whole lot of work for my staff and the volunteers who help, but it is such a good cause."
Funds for Angel Tree gifts were also raised through the sale of tickets for a drawing for a handcrafted cedar chest, which was made and donated by Officer Carl Cosper. Tickets are still available at the sheriff's office for $1 each. The drawing will be held on Friday, Dec. 23.
Funds collected through the sale of additional drawing tickets will be placed in the Angel Tree fund for next year's effort.
Families who apply for Angel Tree assistance are checked to ensure they are not also participating in the Barry County OACAC Neighborhood Center's Share Your Christmas program.
Families are invited to pick up gifts through Friday. Sheriff's office staff members began distributing presents on Tuesday.
Sheriff's department staff members who assisted with the Angel Tree effort include: Jena Smith, Megan May, Belinda Vance and Kathy Emo. Volunteers were: Amanda Epperly, Charlotte Olson, Billie Jo Reibert and Diane Funcannon.