CHESTER, Ohio — This week, “Operation Bluegrass Christmas” brought toys to the children of Mayfield, Ky. from donors in Meigs County, Ohio.
Rich Hixson spearheaded the effort, and arrived in Kentucky Thursday morning with an 18-foot trailer loaded with new, unwrapped toys for children affected by the recent tornadoes.
Eric Perry, a Chester volunteer firefighter, said he received a call from his friend Hixson on Saturday morning following Friday night’s devastating tornados.
“He said we have to do something,” Perry said. “I answered that I would do whatever I could to help, so we began to reach out to see what was most needed.”
After making calls, Perry reached the mayor of Mayfield.
“I could hardly believe he answered the phone,” he said. “With everything going on, it was fortunate that I could speak with him. He directed me to a church group, who advised us they were receiving lots of donations of food and clothing, but with Christmas approaching, toys were needed for the children.”
With that information, Hixon and Perry began a toy drive Sunday afternoon, first by making contact with other fire departments and starting a GoFundMe on Facebook. Drop off sites in Chester and Columbia fire stations, the Pomeroy Police Department, and Doug’s Carryout and Grocery were set up to receive donations, and people began to share the effort on Facebook.
“Operation Bluegrass Christmas”, the name given to the toy drive by Hixson’s son and daughter, was in full swing. Donations of toys and money poured in, totaling over $20,000.
“We had no idea how much we would get, so we prepared for various vehicles to transport the toys,” Perry said. “We used Chester as a base, and so many volunteers came to help.”
He said he and Hixon would like to thank all the business and people who helped make this toy drive a success.
“The list of those we would like to thank is long,” Perry said. “We don’t want to leave anyone out, just a big thank you to everyone who donated and volunteered.”
“Operation Bluegrass Christmas” is no longer accepting donations, but Perry said contributions are being accepted by the American Red Cross.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.