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Christmas is a magical time in the lives of most children, but some face the holidays without the basic things they need in life. That’s where the Washington County Holiday Assistance Program comes into play.
Formerly known as the Angel Tree Program, the WCHAP’s mission is to provide toys, as well as essential items for life to the less fortunate children of the community. At last count, the program planned to serve 86 families with a total of 238 children this year.
“This is something Washington County has supported for many years,” said Sheila Hourigan, who along with Dana Kelty is a co-chair of the program. “We hope they will continue to do so, although we are aware of the economic stress this community, like others across the country face today.”
The holiday assistance program is eager to help, but those receiving the benefits are also required to be active in the process and attend six hours of related classes. Hourigan said families must show income verification, as well as attending parenting classes at local schools, parent-teacher conferences and other similar activities. She said families are encouraged to learn to make better use of resources, and to learn to be the best parents possible to their children. Information about the program and its requirements is sent home with children throughout the school year to allow parents the opportunity to be qualified.
The program has a new name, but it operates in much the same manner as before. Christmas trees are still placed in businesses around Washington County, and information about children and their needs is placed on tags on those trees. People doing business in those locations select a child from the tree, then buy gifts to help the child. Hourigan said the goal of the program is that no child goes without Christmas.
“We put shirts, pants, coats, underwear, shoes, and anything the children might need,” she said. “We want them to have toys and enjoy Christmas, but we also want to meet the needs of the families.”
The holiday assistance program continues to collect items, as well as money, to make Christmas possible for many this year, and donations are still needed, according to Hourigan. Items will be collected through Friday, Dec. 10, and donations can be taken to The River of Life Church, Cornerstone Christian Church, Hardin’s Jewelry and Washington County Community Action. Anyone looking to select a child from one of the local Christmas trees can do so at Parkview IGA, Save-A-Lot, BB&T Bank, US Bank, Springfield State Bank, and the Opera House.
“The main push is to make sure all of the tags are taken. We don’t want any child to be left out,” Hourigan added.
In addition to accepting items, gifts of cash are also welcome. To help fund the program, a roadblock was conducted Saturday, and in a three-hour period, more than $400 was donated.
“I was amazed at how people gave a dollar here and a dollar there, and it added up so quickly,” Hourigan said. “Our dedicated volunteers stood out in the cold, rain and snow to make it possible.”
For more information, or to make a donation, contact Hourigan at (859) 336-0140, or co-chair Dana Kelty at (859) 336-7766.