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“Always Christmas at Christian Help”

20 May

Our long-time friend and volunteer Gail Ruble was here working this week  —  believe it or not, she’s hard at work preparing donated toys for next December’s  Christmas distribution!  That major annual program demands many hours of work throughout the year to make sure everything is ready come December. 

As staff member Delphia commented, “It’s always Christmas at Christian Help.”

Thank you, Gail, and all our beloved volunteers, as well as all our friends whose donations and gifts keep it all happening.

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“We would be hurting if not for them”: Distribution coverage

23 Dec

The Williamson Daily News did a wonderful job convering the Christmas distribution in yesterday’s paper.  Here’s the full front-page article (which is on their website here):

KERMIT — “And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.” Matthew 25:40 (American King James Bible).

The above scripture was quoted during a prayer prior to Christian Help’s annual Christmas Distribution Drive. For the non-profit charitable organization’s drive, there is no quote or scripture more fitting to describe the reason for the annual giveaway.

“It’s all about serving God and living out his love,” said Christian Help Director Barry Hudock.

In all, Christian Help collected 2,980 toys, more than 2,000 stuffed animals, and 800 books that were given to 305 low-income Mingo County families. In addition to those massive numbers, food for 1,900 people was given out as well.

“Thank God for all the good people who have helped us and all the people who sent toys,” said Sister Brendan Conlon, who returned from retirement to help with the Christmas toy drive.

Along with Conlon, retired Sister Janet Peterworth of ABLE Families helped with the drive that boasted over 30 volunteers, many of whom traveled long hours specifically for the event.

One volunteer in particular traveled over 12 hours from his home on Long Island, N.Y., in memory of his late wife.

John Cashin’s late wife Terry donated clothes to Christian Help, but was never able to make the trip to West Virginia for the drive. Cashin has been participating in the drive for the past three years to remember her.

“I look forward to coming here,” said Cashin. “It really makes you appreciate what you have and brings you down to Earth.”

A group of 14 from Marist High School in Atlanta, Ga., — including 12 children — made the trek to Kermit over the weekend to help with the event.

“Christmas is Christmas wherever you are,” said Father John Walls of Marist High School. “People have been so generous. We’re all overwhelmed.”

Ruth Kelly of Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, Ky., brought a moving truck full of toys. Kelly was a student of Sister Conlon when she taught English at Sacred Heart.

“You never see Christmas in the same light,” said Kelly. “It’s a heartwarming and touching experience.”

Christian Help plans for their annual giveaway year-round, accepting toys and donations throughout the year and then during November, the organization begins registering families for the drive.

“The response from the community is great,” said Director of Programs and Aid Sister Therese Carew. “The poorest of the poor are able to have Christmas and it all happens because of generosity from all over the country.”

Families receiving food and toys were all smiles during the event and praised the organization’s hospitality.

“Thank God they help out everyone they everyone they can,” said Mary Collins of Big Splint Hollow. “(Sister Brendan) is a sweet lady and I love her and Sister Therese with everything in me.”

“We would be hurting if not for them,” added Collins’ daughter, Mary Jane.

Christian Help is supported entirely by donations, mostly from churches and individuals.  It is not affiliated with any one church and serves anyone in need, regardless of race or religion–or lack of religion.

Christmas distribution stats

22 Dec

Scroll down for a few photos (and click ’em to enlarge).  Here’s a view of yesterday’s distribution project, by the numbers:

families served: 303

kids who received toys: 455

people provided with food for Christmas meal: 1,900

toys given: 2,980

stuffed animals given: 2,169

books given: 790

Wow. 

Holiday groceries given away included 195 hams, 30 turkeys, 31 cases of green beans, 16 cases of chocolate pudding, 2,160 apples, and 2,160 oranges. 

Besides about 20 local volunteers, we also received help from volunteers from the states of Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Georgia, and Connecticutt. 

Those, of course, are just facts and figures.   They offer a window into what went on here, to help those who could not be here understand.  But what it was really about was the people: the kids who will now have toys for Christmas, the families who will enjoy a nice holiday meal, the volunteers who gave many hours and much energy to making it happen, the donors who gave toys and money throughout the year. 

And it’s about the Lord Jesus, who (He tells us) dwells in a special way in those who are poor, and who was born in Bethlehem to bring each and every one of us — rich and poor, young and old — the love and grace of God.

Christmas distribution day photos

21 Dec

All is well.  The Christmas distribution is complete, and the folks around here are tired.  But it was a truly wonderful day. 

More on it all tomorrow.  Here are some photos of the goings on. 

Sr. Therese prepares the troops -- our crew of volunteers, that is -- before the big event begins.Just before the distribution begins, one of our local teen volunteers goes over the groceries to make sure there's enough for everyone.Minnie and Loida, two local volunteers, are at the groceries table, making sure everyone gets what they need.

A view over the entire gym with the Christmas distribution in progress. What an operation!

A shopper looks over the selection, trying to find the perfect gifts for Christmas morning. (Photo taken with permission.)
Here’s John Cashin, a CH supporter who makes an annual trek from his home on Long Island to Mingo County to help out on the big distribution day.

Students of Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia, stand ready to serve for the day.

New hard-working friends!

20 Dec

With only one day to go until the Christmas distribution, there are a whole lot of people working very hard to be ready for the big event.  No one is bored around the Christian Help or ABLE Families offices today.

And in the midst of it all, we’ve made some new friends.  Among those joining us to help us pull off the event this year is a group of 12 students and 2 staff from Marist School in Atlanta, Georgia.  They arrived yesterday evening and got right to work this morning.  And boy, are we glad to have them.

Here’s a photo of them at work this morning, organizing a huge donation of groceries that we received over the weekend from another new friend in Columbus, Ohio.   (The donation included much more than you see here — lots of frozen meats, cereals, pastas, and canned goods.)  This group of young men and women did in about 4 hours what it would have taken our small staff several days to do. 

Tomorrow they’ll be just as helpful among the many other volunteers who will be here for the big distribution.  Our warm thanks to these new friends of ours!

Set-up Day

17 Dec

Today was our most important preparation day for the big Christmas distribution.  All of the toys and clothes to be distributed this coming Tuesday were unloaded from storage and into the Kermit gym.  We had literally dozens of volunteers there to help out with this major operation.  A big empty gymnasium was transformed into a warehouse of Christmas goodness!

Among the many people and organizations who pitched in in various ways throughout the day are:

the Town of Kermit

Chesapeake Energy

students from Tug Valley High School

students from Regis University in Denver, Colorado

ABLE Families

and many volunteers, many local and some who came from several hours’ drive away. 

Our profound thanks to all for all the help today! 

More preparation happens Monday, then Tuesday is the big distribution day.  Here are some photos I snapped as the day progressed.

Christmas distribution is almost here

9 Dec

We have been hearing from people near and far who are planning to come and help on the big day, and every time we do, I get more excited about the good stuff we’re going to accomplish together on December 21.  That’s the day of this year’s annual Christmas distribution project, the day we get toys and clothes (for under the tree) and food (for on the holiday table) to people in need all over the region. 

Registrations for receiving assistance in the distribution are now closed (and we’re now having to turn away many who ask to participate).  Here are the numbers we’re looking at:

Total number of kids in families to be provided with toys: 453

Total number of families to be served (one meal per family): 303

Total number of people to be served overall: 1,009

It’s a lot of work to be done, a lot preparations to make, a lot of food to purchase, a lot of good to do!

If you’d like to come help on the big day, you’re most welcome!  If you’d like to make a donation to help with the cost of food, that’s welcome, too! 

And if you’d like to help, but neither of those options are workable, we’d also welcome some serious prayers, for all our staff and volunteers who will be giving so much of themselves when they could be home with their families or getting presents wrapped, and even more for the many dear people of this area who unfortunately have a need for a program like this distribution. 

No one wants to step forward and say “I can’t afford to get my own kids their Christmas presents.”  And it sure does hurt to know it’s true.  But when it is, it’s also a great blessing to have a resource like Christian Help’s Christmas distribution to turn to.  I know, because I’ve heard it so many times from so many grateful people on the big day.