WH teens lend Share-A-Christmas a giant hand

WH teens lend Share-A-Christmas a giant hand

As is the case with any volunteer-based organization, it takes many hands to make for lighter work, and on Wednesday, Dec. 8, Holmes County Share-A-Christmas got a huge hand from a group of volunteers from West Holmes High School, where the students helped the toy gift collection and distribution day roll smoothly in preparing for the big event on Dec. 11.

Inside the Tom and Eva Sterling Humrichhouser Agricultural Building, dozens of West Holmes High School student volunteers united to help fill the toy bags that were destined to be part of the Share-A-Christmas day of giving to area families.

The well-organized machine saw students form a continuous line, with two or three students grouped together to complete the task at hand. There was a real focus in their intent, and they were determined to do the job right.

Jim Park heads up the toy collection and distribution day, which involves volunteers packing up age-appropriate toys together in large bags, which then become part of each SAC family’s gift packages.

Park gets many of the student volunteers from his own class at the high school, and others volunteer because they want to be a part of the giving process. Park said he even has students who have graduated come back because they enjoy the idea of community service.

“The kids do a super job, and they don’t do it for themselves but because they know they are helping others,” Park said. “That’s who our kids are. Finding kids to volunteer is never a problem.”

Park said he became involved with SAC 26 years ago when he moved into the community. He’s been there ever since, and he said it is heartwarming to see these young people learning the value of giving back and supporting community.

One such student who came back was Kristen Yoder, who graduated in 2005. She came back and took over the toy-purchasing role her mother-in-law Barb Yoder once perfected. Yoder said for years she helped her mother-in-law before taking over the role several years ago.

She said she begins collecting toys in January of each year, knowing that ordering and shipping can take time. It also takes away from the stress of cramming everything in late in the process.

She said it takes a conscious effort to not order toys that are the same year to year because she doesn’t want a child who was 7 to get the same toys as an 8-year-old.

“I want to make sure I get the toys I want, toys that will be meaningful and exciting to the kids who receive them,” Yoder said. “I kind of have it down to a science, so it goes smoothly, and by ordering early enough, it frees up time for me to focus on days like this.”

She said the students come in and go to work, and they understand how to follow directions and make the day successful.

Yoder said she remains in contact with SAC chair Bob Porter throughout the year, making sure they are on the same page, monitoring the family count. She said they never want to run out of toys because they can always store toys for the following year.

“We actually ran short last year and had to run in and purchase toys at the last second,” Yoder said. “That’s too stressful.”

She said not only does Share-A-Christmas give during the event, but also they make sure the organization remains available throughout the year when families with children face catastrophes like flooding and fires that can destroy a child’s toys. She said knowing SAC is there to donate toys should that happen is comforting.

As for the students, they went to work with smiles and remained focused throughout the day.

Peyton McKinney graduated last year from WHHS, but he came back from Ohio Dominican University for his fifth year of lending a helping hand. McKinney said he believes it is important for all teens to find ways to give back to the community.

“There’s a joy in doing this, in giving back to your community,” McKinney said. “It’s always good to see the old, familiar faces, and seeing so many kids here helping today shows that we want to find ways to make an impact and give back to our community. It shows a real community spirit.”

West Holmes senior Meghan Stewart was one of dozens of West Holmes students who volunteered to help separate and bag toys and help move them from the Humrichhouser building into the Baker Building, where they were placed with each family’s lot.

“I think for me it’s about doing good deeds,” said Stewart, who joined the toy distribution process for the first time. “It’s good karma, and I like the idea of giving back to people. It’s been a fun experience.”

SAC member Mike Ditmars said it is heartwarming to see all these young people stepping up to help SAC, knowing eventually they could be the ones heading a variety of leadership positions in the organization.

Paring the bags of toys with each child’s requested toy will go a long way in providing a gratifying Christmas to all of them.

“People don’t realize how many people and how much work goes into this entire process,” Ditmars said. “But with great help like these kids, we are able to make it a special day for the kids.”