ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Children don’t understand the words “budget cuts” and “layoffs” when their minds are dazzled by images of toys and other gifts under the Christmas tree.
Why can’t they get gifts like everybody else?
Remembering what it’s like to be a child and receive toys, the people of Hillsboro and surrounding communities have rallied once again to give to others less fortunate at this time of year.
One of those generous donors is Eric Bartel, who joined with 30 other students in his Technology Student Association class at Hillsboro High School to make wooden toy trucks for children in their community.
“It’s a big project, and it’s helping a lot of kids who don’t get a lot of toys at Christmas,” Bartel said.
“I hope it will make somebody smile.”
The TSA Toys for Tots project, the Christmas Giving Tree at Hillsboro State Bank, the Marion County Toy Run, the Silver Angel Tree at Emprise Bank, and the Hillsboro Ministerial Association’s assistance program are just a few examples of avenues the community has taken to make sure others have a happy Christmas this year.
Toys for Tots
This is the first year for the Toys for Tots program at HHS.
Matt Carroll and Creigh Bell, first-year technology teachers at the high school, both participated in a similar project as members of Epsilon Pi Tau honorary fraternity at Fort Hays State University.
“This is something they’ve been doing for 15 to 20 years up there,” Carroll said. “It’s a tradition at Fort Hays, and we thought it would be something good we could do down here.”
Technology students were asked to create a toy design, and this year they decided to make 142 toy semitrailers made out of redwood.
“The kids have been real excited because they got to pick out the design on their own,” Carroll said.
The trailers are about 15 inches long, with moveable wheels and a separate front cab and back trailer that come apart.
“We contacted Carl Long at Hillsboro State Bank and told him we could come up with about 100 toys,” Carroll said. “And he said that would be great-they would take whatever we could give them.”
Local businesses and individuals have contributed to the student project.
The Lumberyard donated all the lumber, Hillsboro Hardware Store gave some of the finishing materials, students and parents donated drill presses, and other local businesses offered monetary donations to off-set the cost of manufacturing the toys.
Students, families and teachers met last Saturday at HHS and worked on an assembly line to put the truck parts together that students prepared in advance.
“McDonalds donated breakfast, Daylight Donut shop made us snacks for the middle of the morning, and then Sonic donated lunch,” Carroll said.
Donations are still being accepted by the TSA group for their project. They plan to drop off the toy trucks at Hillsboro State Bank’s Christmas Giving Tree site on Dec. 13. To donate, contact Carroll or Bell at 947-3991.
“Watching this come together, and watching the kids build them is really neat,” Carroll said.
“This is a lot of fun. We plan on doing this next year and maybe do a piggy bank or something different.”
Area Ministerial Ass’n
The Hillsboro-Area Ministerial Association’s assistance program has helped 51 families with some type of aid since last Christmas.
“Sometimes, families receive financial assistance with a utility bill or rent,” said Stephen Humber, treasurer of HAMA and associate pastor of Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church in Hillsboro.
“Other times, they may receive a voucher for help with groceries. Most of the time, these are families with small children. So while ministerial assistance may seem like help for grown-ups, many, many children stay warm, dry and fed because of the generosity of the people of Hillsboro who donate money.”
Money raised by the Marion County Toy Run and chili feed last month was distributed to four communities.
The Hillsboro Ministerial Association received a check of $2,202 from the Toy Run to add to money collected from the community Thanksgiving and Easter services.
“That ($2,202) is up from last year,” Humber said. “They have consistently been amazingly generous to the ministerial.”
In the past, the money was used to help transients traveling through the community, said Laney Kuhn, president of the ministerial and pastor of United Methodist Church in Hillsboro.
“But we’re seeing more and more families that we’re helping in this community. And I think it’s because of lay offs and the economy and things of that nature.”
The distribution is generally limited to up to $100 per family per year, according to Kuhn.
“The money is disbursed to utilities or rent, but it’s never given to the person themselves. Another part of that piece of the pie is the Main Street Ministry and food bank and the clothing-distribution center.”
Money from the ministerial is also distributed in the form of vouchers for those in need to redeem at local businesses.
For more information about getting aid or helping others at Christmas and throughout the year, call a pastor in Hillsboro, Durham and Lehigh and reference the area ministerial.
Humber also mentioned two other organizations that help those in need locally and outside the area at Christmas time.
One is the Salvation Army, and the other is Operation Christmas Child.
“The Salvation Army has done a lot in Marion County in the last few years,” Humber said.
A donation envelope was included in the Nov. 20 issue of the Hillsboro Free Press for those wanting to contribute to the charity.
“The funding from generous Marion County donors stays in yor community to help your less fortunate neighbors,” said Michael J. Dixon with the Kansas/Western Missouri Division of the Salvation Army.
Operation Christmas Child is sponsored by the Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational-evangelical Christian organization. The group sponsors the distribution of gift-filled shoe boxes to needy children in about 95 countries.
“And we just sponsored that this year in Hillsboro,” Humber said.
“Parkview Church highlighted the program as a Sunday School project, and the Mothers of Preschoolers group that meets at Parkview also highlighted it. There were some shoe boxes that were dropped off from the community as well.”
A total of 57 shoe boxes filled with such things as toys and hygiene items appropriate for boys and girls in three age groups were dropped off at Parkview MB Church and delivered to families “all over the country,” Humber said.
When asked if any story of generosity touched his heart this year, Humber mentioned an anonymous businessman in Hillsboro.
“When a person brings the voucher to his business, this guy told me he’s never going to request reimbursement from the ministerial,” Humber said.
“I mean, that’s the kind of generosity in this town where they say, ‘I know who you are, and if you say this person has a need, then my business is just going to donate that.”
Christmas Giving Tree/Toy Run
In its 13th year, the Christmas Giving Tree at Hillsboro State Bank is the drop-off site for toys from individual members of the community, the Toys for Tots program and the Marion County Toy Run.
Shelley Rooker, administrative assistant at the bank, worked with Ron Funk and Gary Andrews from the Sons of the American Legion to coordinate the toy drop-off.
“We take those toys and split them up between four towns, which are Hillsboro, Goessel, Marion and Peabody,” Rooker said. “Each of those towns has a giving tree of some sort to give out to their needy children.”
A Christmas tree sits in the lobby of the bank, and is surrounded by toys to be distributed to the three other communities two weeks before Christmas.
In memory of Mike Hawk of Salina, who died in October from a stroke or heart attack, friends and family donated several sacks of stuffed animals to the Toy Run.
“About 90 percent of these stuffed toys are from that,” Rooker said.
New this year are red and green angel tags with names of children who live in foster homes in Marion County. Kelly Krch, family-service coordinator for KVC Family Services located in El Dorado, brought the angels to the bank the first week of December.
Established as a separate program, the gifts purchased for the angel tags will be picked up by a representative from the facility, Rooker said.
Pink and blue teddy-bear tags also hang from the Christmas Giving Tree in the lobby with names of area children.
Families from the Hillsboro, Durham and Lehigh areas needing toys can pick up applications at the bank or local churches and schools.
“I take the application, and I assign it a number because we don’t allow any names on the trees,” Rooker said.
The tags have the children’s ages on the front and a list of four or five gift suggestions on the back.
By the first week in December, about half the tags were picked up and replaced with a gold ribbon on the tree, an indication that someone is buying gifts for a child.
When the toys are returned, Rooker stores them in a separate place so they aren’t mixed in with the Toy Run toys until it’s time to distribute all of them.
“The toys that we end up with from the Toy Run, we add to those children’s toys that people buy using the tags,” Rooker said.
The Lion’s Club and Leo Club are scheduled to arrive the evening of Dec. 19 to pick up all the toys, wrap and return them to the bank.
“If people don’t want to take a tag off, they can donate money,” Rooker said. “We have an account here for the Giving Tree so that any tags left by the 19th that have not been taken, we go out ourselves and go purchase gifts for those names.”
Last year, 70 children received gifts through the Christmas Giving Tree, the Marion County Toy Run and individuals in the area.
Parents will be able to pick the toys up, or they will be delivered to the families on Dec. 23.
“For those who can’t make it here, the police will play Santa Claus and go deliver these gifts,” Rooker said.
“People who receive something like this, it floors them. Plus, it’s amazing how many gifts people actually buy from the tags. It’s not just one gift-there could be three to five gifts that child will get.”
Rooker said she encourages families to fill out an application if there is a need this year. She can be contacted at the bank at 947-3961.
Silver Angel Tree
The elderly are not forgotten this time of year thanks, to Hillsboro Community Medical Center and Emprise Bank. They sponsor the Silver Angel Tree, located in the lobby of Emprise Bank in Hillsboro.
“The purpose of the tree is to brighten the holidays for senior citizens who have a low income and could use a little help,” said Marsha Setzkorn-Meyer, director of marketing and public relations at HCMC.
Area agencies for the elderly and local ministers offer names of seniors who might benefit from the tree program. The individuals are contacted, and the names are kept confidential.
“The names are coming in slowly, but we anticipate to have about the same number as last year,” Setzkorn-Meyer said.
This will be the second year for the program initiated by Setzkorn-Meyer.
“People in the community are asked to adopt the silver angels just as they have been adopting the children’s angels at Hillsboro State Bank,” she said.
The gifts will be delivered by HCMC staff members the week of Dec. 16.
Dorothy Deckert with Emprise Bank said, “The Silver Angel Tree was very successful last year. The people who fill the silver-angel wishes really enjoy doing it. It’s a win-win celebration of Christmas.”
To help with the Silver Angel Tree, contact Emprise Bank at 947-3141 or Setzkorn-Meyer at 947-3114.