Most children will wake to presents under a lighted tree this Christmas, but for some local kids, were not for the hard work of many, Christmas may be as joyful.
It is during the holiday season that most charitable giving is done, but one type of giving that is special this time of year is the toy drive. Each year, millions of toys are donated to hundreds of different toy drives to make sure than no child goes through the season without having a gift.
One annual event in Perry County has been going on since 1954 and is going strong to this day. The Light a Child’s Christmas giveaway lets hundreds of children pick gifts, both new and used, from donated items at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Hazard.
The veterans and the ladies’ auxiliary raise funds and collect donations for months to be able to provide gifts to children in the area. According to Mary Shanks with the ladies’ auxiliary, they serve around 200 to 300 children during the one-day event. “They all get to see Santa Claus, they all get a treat bag, and they all get a new toy, and a used toy,” said Shanks.
Children are sent through the event in groups of 10 so they can all be given a fair chances at the toys. When children have to wait, they are given a coloring book and items to play with. The new toys are all wrapped, and used toys are unwrapped so children can pick one out.
While the ladies’ auxiliary has been hard at work collecting items and donations, they are still accepting more and will continue to accept donations through Dec. 14. The Light a Child’s Christmas will be held Dec. 16.
Anyone looking to lend a hand or a toy still can. Donations can be taken to the VFW post on North Main Street in Hazard. Volunteers are welcome to help pack goodie bags on Dec. 13 at the VFW following the ladies auxiliary meeting, or come to Light a Child’s Christmas on the 16th. Any toys left over are taken to needy families at their or given out at the Masonic Lodge in Hardburly.
Another group working to make Christmas brighter for local children is the Lotts Creek Community School in Cordia. According to the school director Alice Whitaker, the students and community are involved in several giving efforts.
One man has taken it upon himself to help the people of the Cordia community to have a good Christmas for the past few years. Gino Montrone has brought truckloads of goods to the small school that have then been given to the families of the students and the community.
Montrone, a resident of New Jersey, retired and was looking for a way to give back. He saw a documentary about Eastern Kentucky and decided to start investigating ways to help the children of the region. “He called someone in Frankfort, and it just so happened that the person they got was from here,” said Whitaker.
Montrone has formed several connections with schools and individuals in New Jersey, and this year they were able to donate three truckloads of goods.
Lotts Creek Community School has also received a grant that is making the school a healthier place. This grant has helped the school start a gym, replace unhealthy snacks and foods with healthy ones, and all but eliminate soda. This grant also helped the school to give away 100 turkey dinner boxes to both students and community. The boxes contained a healthy option for Thanksgiving meals.
The school is also involved in giving out food through their food pantry. Every month they open their doors to the people of the area to receive much needed food. This month the pantry will be opened on Dec. 20.
Whitaker said that they can always use volunteers and donations to help with their many charitable endeavors. The school provides the students with toys and they are still in need of more. Any toys donated can be taken to the school on Lotts Creek Road near the Perry/Knott line.
Anyone looking for ways to help out with the school can call (606) 785-4461 and find out different ways to help out.
Another group of people interested in helping children and families this season and year round is the Autism Support Group of Perry County. This group seeks to help the families of autistic children of all ages find support both emotionally and monetarily. Russ Baker said that the families help one another during times of illness or tragedies.
The group’s members try to plan stimulating activities for the children and their siblings such as pool parties and picnics, and also act as a voice of understanding for other parents with autistic children. Each year they host a large autism walk in April that benefits research and awareness.
The group will also be hosting their annual Christmas party on Dec. 21. Baker said that with all that they do they are always looking for volunteers to help out. To get involved or find out more about the group you can call Baker at (606)436-0761 and ask for Russ or Kim.
Shoes Sensation in the Black Gold Plaza is also working to do their part this season by collecting shoes for the needy. The program, called Soles 4 Souls, has people donate shoes which are then distributed to both children and adults.
By donating used shoes you can also receive a discount on new shoes. The collected shoes, both new and used, help people across the world in different ways. The new shoes are given to victims of many types of suffering around the world, and the used shoes are used to create businesses and growth potential in struggling communities.
Many of these groups work year round and are always looking for help. Christmas tends to be the time of year when more people need the most help and have the most help given. One charity that focuses on helping people this time of year is Marlow’s Christmas for the Needy.
This event is held in a new location every year and gives thousands of families across the region food, clothing, furniture, and any items they may need. This year it is being held at American Woodmark in the Coal Fields Industrial Park in Chavies.
The event’s creator and namesake, Marlow Tackett, has been collecting donations from across the country, but is always looking to give more. Anyone with items to give can take them to the American Woodmark Building or call Tackett at (606) 487-9697.