By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
With only a week left before the all-exciting, highly anticipated Christmas Day, shoppers are combing the stores, frantic to find the procrastinated presents that make the day special.
For many parents in the local area, that boon of last-minute shopping — and shopping in general — has been lifted. So have the spirits of the children who were fortunate enough to benefit through one of several charitable programs here within the county.
As the first semester of the school year winds down and school age children approach their Christmas break, most of the county’s charitable programs have already distributed their gifts for the Christmas season.
This year’s efforts were spearheaded through the school system’s family resource centers and youth service centers, from each elementary, middle and high school in the county. The results were astounding.
Hundreds and hundreds of children throughout the community received coats, shoes, clothing, and toys as a combined effort of good-hearted, generous people from all walks of life.
The efforts of those who organize the numerous events is astounding. The Christmas Store at Souls’ Harbor Church featured a dozen or more rows of tables lining the length of the fellowship hall, stacked above and below with clothing, books, games, toys, stuffed animals, shoes, purses, jewelry, craft items, and other assorted items. Both breakfast and lunch were provided for the recipients of this year’s event, with a reported 460 children served. When those families had been served, the remaining items were offered to other families in the area, and reports indicate that cars filled the parking lot and lined the roadway to the church afterwards.
Likewise for the Somerset Community College Cosmetology Christmas Party that provided clothing and toys for children. The faces of the children lit up during the puppet show and radiated with joy as they opened their gifts. Pizza and other refreshments highlighted the day that served 20 children from one county school.
The Optimist Club Christmas Party offered a shopping spree at a local store where children chose an outfit of clothing and a coat, followed by a party that provided a basket of food for the family. Most of the funds for this program were raised by Optimist Club members through donations and by their annual bluegrass festival during the summer months. More than 60 children and their families benefited from this year’s effort.
Shop With A Cop, too, was no exception. More than 350 children in the area were served thanks to a huge fundraising effort which began through a Facebook auction for a box of Hostess Twinkies. The auction and other online donations brought in $15,000 for this program.
In continuing their service to their country, the American Legion Post hosts a party each year for needy children in the community. That party begins with the arrival of Santa Claus on a fire truck and culminates with a good meal and presents for the children nominated for each year’s program. More than 70 children in the community benefited from this year’s American Legion posts.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Laurel County Kiwanis Club, which sponsored approximately 40 children on a shopping spree that also provided toys and clothing. The Kiwanis Club is comprised of men and women in the community who dedicate themselves to public service.
Through the giving of the members and volunteers and the generosity of the community as a whole — both businesses and individuals — nearly 1,000 children were treated to a wonderful holiday season.
With a vast majority of citizens in the county classified as ‘poverty’ level, the ability to provide nearly 1,000 children with their needs and some wants at Christmastime is astronomical. Those numbers do not include many other organizations such as individual churches who also sponsor families and children at Christmas. This does not include the other organizations who offer assistance year-round, such C.A.R.S., Come-Unity Cooperative Care, Salvation Army, Goodwill, and so many more.
We are fortunate to live in a community where people host such huge hearts and are willing to sacrifice and/or share their blessings with others less fortunate. It is truly an honor to live among such noble, kind and unselfish people who are the true gems that shine out in Laurel County.