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Community Christmas gives families holiday help

Staff writer

Of communities in the county, Peabody saw the largest uptick in families needing holiday assistance this year.

Rodger Charles, president of the Peabody Association of Churches, said 12 families with over 30 children applied for help from the Giving Tree program.

“That’s up significantly this year,” Charles said. “As a matter of fact, almost double from last year.”

Charles said he doesn’t know the reason the number of requests went up.

“It just happened this year,” Charles said. “I think we’ve had some families move to town that are single parent.”

Peabody has long had a significant number of needy families, Charles said. Years ago, when the state Social and Rehabilitative Services agency closed many county offices and changed to regional offices instead, Charles learned that Peabody’s number of people getting state assistance was more than Hillsboro and Marion combined.

“The need has always been great in our community,” Charles said. “We do fluctuate. We go up, we go down. This year we’re significantly up.”

Marion County Toy Run, organized by Sons of the American Legion, provides toys for all the county’s Christmas assistance programs, but it wasn’t known at that time that Peabody’s needs would be higher than typical.

Peabody churches always fill the gaps between the number of toys provided by the toy run and the number of toys needed. They also provide food for the families’ holiday meals.

“This one hit our churches very hard,” Charles said. “On top of the toys, our churches give socks, hat and gloves, and pants.”

Families get to fill out a menu giving them food choices, such as potatoes or sweet potatoes, apple pie or cherry, turkey or ham.

“We load them down so everybody gets an incredible meal,” Charles said.

Peabody families get letters in late October inviting them to apply if they need help. Applications for help are due by Nov. 15. Prewrapped gifts with the children’s names on them were delivered Dec. 16.

Some toys and money are sent each year to the Burns Ministerial Alliance so churches there can oversee the distribution in their community, Charles said.

Other communities served a number of families comparable to last year’s number.

Hillsboro’s program served 28 families this year, Shelley Rooker at Hillsboro State Bank said. That number is a few more than last year.

“The people we help are here in the Hillsboro, Durham, Lehigh school district,” Rooker said.

To qualify for assistance, families must meet the school district’s criteria for free or reduced-price lunches, according to Rooker.

Members of the Lions Club on Monday picked up gifts to wrap them.

“When they come back we put names on all the gifts,” she said.

Rooker said she enjoys helping with the program, which has been going on in Hillsboro for many years.

“I like helping the children gets Christmas presents,” Rooker said. “Every child likes to open a Christmas present, and it helps families in need.”

If not enough tags on the Giving Tree at the bank are selected, bank employees provide presents for those children.

Goessel Ministerial Alliance coordinates the program for their community.

Loretta Weims, treasurer for the alliance, said the program helped 15 families this year, about the same as last year.

Goessel’s program is operated on an honor system. If the family applies, it is assumed they have genuine need.

The Giving Tree is located at Crossroads Credit Union.

Families get a ham and apples and oranges, as well as items from Tabor Mennonite Church food pantry.

Margo Yates, Marion’ Community Christmas program committee member, said 60 families were helped with this year’s program. That number is about the same as last year.

“Some get food and gifts for the children,” Yates said. “Some have just asked for food.”

The program has evolved over the years and is supported by Marion County Toy Run, FFA, other organizations, individuals, and businesses.

“Nobody should have an empty cupboard,” Yates said. “It’s a couple hundred dollars worth of groceries. We give them everything to make meals.”

Yates said the applicants are screened by state income guidelines so the committee can be a good steward of donations.

Some of this year’s donors were people the program helped in the past.

“We had a couple of people who needed help in the past,” Yates said. “They were able to pay it forward this year, and they did.”

Girls Scouts did a coat drive for the program. Coats were hung on a rack for families to take if needed.

“We do have coats left and the plan is to take that up to the food bank,” Yates said. “As we do with anything we have left, it goes to the food bank.”

Yates said the committee accomplishes a lot for a handful of people.

“There’s a small group of elves that put the food boxes together and carry them out to the cars,” she said. “They like helping, too.”

Last modified Dec. 21, 2017

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