Dec. 25, 2013 — More than 300 families received clothes, toys, and food from Project Merry Christmas on Saturday.
The program, which has been in Carter County for 31 years, touched the lives of 1,200 people through their annual giving. But the night before the big event was bustling with activity
“Just knowing that you're helping is worth it,” said board member Pam Kitchen. “There are so many families who wouldn't have a Christmas at all without this program.”
JROTC at East Carter wraps age appropriate gifts for the children, which are then set around tables for families to pick up.
Toys and books, clothing and food are given away after being purchased with donated funds.
Phyllis Davis is president of Project Merry Christmas and has been for more than 20 years.
“We spend around $30,000 on the project,” Davis said. “But every dollar given to the project goes to help the kids.”
The program is income-based and parents apply beginning each November through the Youth Service Center at their local schools.
“My favorite part is tomorrow,” Davis said. “Last year we were giving out toys and food vouchers and I heard a little boy say 'grandma we're going to get food!' Which was really sad, but you now it’s needed. I don't know why people want to send their money other places when we have real need here.”
The wrapped toys are purchased at Kmart, which gives the organization a 20 percent discount.
Youth Service Center spokeswoman Becky Walker helps find families in need review applications.
“We saw a few more applicants than we have seen in year's past,” Walker said. “I think that’s a sign of the time. I would love to see their smiles on Christmas morning but it is enough to know they are going to have a good Christmas.”
Parents also get to pick out an unwrapped gift from the center table for each child. A truck from the Salvation Army in Ashland arrived on Friday with the majority of the toys for the center.
“The post commander asked what we needed and they came through for us with an entire truck full,” Walker said.
Bob Caummisar is another long-time member of the PMC group.
“The expressions of gratitude make it worthwhile,” Caummisar said. “There are 28,000 people in this county and we know more than the 600 kids we get to help tomorrow are needy.”
The group has some self-imposed rules for toys such as no guns, nothing warlike or that promotes violence. They also have very few toys that take batteries.
Caummisar said he hopes that newly- formed organizations and area churches will consider joining Project Merry Christmas in order to reach more people.
“We feel like every year a new group decides to event Christmas for a needy family,” Caummisar said. “We would like for those organizations to join with us in making sure we reach as many needy families as possible.”