KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Giving is one of the greatest parts of the Christmas season whether it be presents, cards or time. It is the time of year when communities and families come together despite all differences and put others before themselves.
What about families in need who are unable to share in Christmas traditions some people may take for granted? Thankfully there are multiple organizations dedicated to giving to others and reminding the rest of the community how important it is to think of those less fortunate.
According to Dave Morales, coordinator for Kosciusko County Toys for Tots, the program is “one of the most successful Christmas campaigns in the country.” This was the third year Toys for Tots partnered with the Village at Winona to collect toys for its annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Previously the Village at Winona would choose one needy family in town and donate items to them for the holiday. However, Nick Hauck, managing director, stated they decided it would be better for the community to be able to reach more than one family.
Each shop in the Village at Winona is given a Toys for Tots collection box and they work to promote donations throughout the week before bringing them to the tree lighting ceremony. It helps to kick off the holiday season in town and last year more than 300 people attended the event with cookies, hot cocoa, a train ride, visits with Santa Claus and music from a Stinson organ available to all those who donated a toy.
After collection and sign-ups, all toys are personally delivered by volunteers to Kosciusko County residents the Saturday before Christmas. Morales’ goal is to be able to help every family who signs up for assistance.
The Salvation Army is participating in 95 years of Christmas outreach with its Angel Tree program. It assists unemployed or underemployed families with children 12 years of age and younger. People from the communities take tags off the angel tree and “adopt” the children, purchasing gifts specifically for them. The Salvation Army also collects new toys, hats, gloves and new books for this purpose.
Kosciusko County families are then given an appointment to pick up their gifts and food so everything is distributed by Dec. 20. Ken Locke, community ministries coordinator, stated giving to others is so important because “there is blessing in giving. Giving helps us to look outside of ourselves to realize there are others who are in need.” The Salvation Army also takes gifts to nursing homes in Kosciusko County to help cheer up residents during the Christmas season.
Many members of the community who are deployed overseas also need assistance during the holidays. Susan Manns began Treasures for Troops with her husband in 2007, though they served only one soldier and had no official name.
In 2011, they made it an official nonprofit program through their church, which is run solely by volunteer work. This is the sixth year the group is doing Stockings for Soldiers in the hopes all soldiers in the 10 groups they are assisting can receive a stocking. Within the 10 groups are approximately 450 soldiers away from home and their families for Christmas.
For Manns this is not just an organization, it’s her passion. She refers to each soldier, and particularly each group contact, she has helped during the past nine years as her kids. The program assists all branches of service and any member of the military, regardless of rank or position. She considers it a privilege to be able to encourage service members, particularly important this time of year.
These stockings and letters help to take the soldiers’ minds out of the combat zone and remind them of the joys of home. A few small items in a stocking and a letter goes to “show what just a little bit of kindness can do, especially for those serving our country.”
Christmas is a time to think of others and give to those who are important to us. While it is easy to get caught up in the Christmas craze, it is also the best time of year to remember those who are not as blessed.
A simple gift can change someone’s Christmas.