And people in Mason County stepped up to the plate this year to help the less fortunate have an enjoyable holiday.
Despite tough economic times across the nation, local groups, businesses and organizations worked together to help those in need this Christmas. In fact, members of the county helped at the local, national and international level.
For example, Lakin Hospital staff members collected generous donations from the community to fulfill their residents’ wishlists. Operation Santa Claus is a program that Lakin Hospital uses in order to bring hospital residents holiday cheer. In addition to collecting items such as pajamas, sweatshirts and puzzles, various groups presented special programs for the residents. According to Activity Supervisor Addie Roberts, Operation Santa Claus helps residents that don’t have a family feel like they do because of generous community support.
Another display of community support came from the Mason County Toys for Kids Association. According to Coordinator Brandy Barkey, all toys collected stayed in Mason County. Barkey also emphasized that children do not just receive one toy, but get a bag full.
For Barkey, Toys for Kids is what makes her Christmas.
“I plan to continue (volunteering with Toy for Kids) until I can’t do it anymore. This part of Christmas...is what (Christmas) has been about since I was a little kid, and I can’t imagine not doing it,” Barkey said. “(Christmas) wouldn’t feel the same.”
Another organization that helped area children this year was the Mason County Department of Health and Human Resources. Toys and other items were collected at the DHHR as part of the Mason County Christmas Project, an annual event that has been in existence for the past 20 years and is one that employees at the DHHR started when they wanted to help the less fortunate children in the area.
Each year the agency accepts applications from families in the county, and this year more than 150 signed up to be “adopted” by businesses, churches or individuals in the community who came together to purchase toys and other items for the holiday season that the families otherwise wouldn’t have received.
In addition, fire departments around the county collected donations of various items, including toys and food to benefit those in need. The Flatrock Volunteer Fire Department accepted donations of new toys, children’s clothing and canned food to help keep the Christmas dream alive this holiday season.
According to Brent Sang, who serves as safety officer of the fire department, members of the fire department conducted boot drives as fundraisers this year and raised more than $2,300, some of which was used toward the purchase of toys. In addition, Santa Claus helped hand out presents at the fire station.
The Point Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department also worked hard to help those less fortunate by collecting food baskets.
Bend Area C.A.R.E. also hosted its annual Christmas project by collecting items to be donated to families in the Bend Area as well as Meigs County, Ohio, while deputies with the Mason County Sheriff’s Department spent the day shopping with 67 children through the annual Shop with a Cop program.
At the Henderson Community Center, volunteers collected gifts for many children during the annual toy give-away. Following the Henderson Christmas parade, children gathered at the community center to visit Santa and receive one toy. According to Henderson Mayor Jack McCoy, all children were presented with a toy regardless of financial status.
On a global level, members of local church groups, 4-H clubs and civic groups took part in Operation Christmas Child, a program designed to enable caring people to share God’s love and the love of others with children living in desperate situations in the far corners of the world. The program fills standard-size shoe boxes with items such as school supplies, hard candy, stuffed animals and small toys, which are sent to children in Peru, Zambia, Madagascar, Lebanon, Jamaica and dozens of other countries around the world.
None of these programs, however, would be possible if not for the generous donations from local residents.