Bear-y Christmas!

Hillsboro freshman Katrina Muzyka (left) receives a “Victory Bear” from seventh-grader Olivia Kliewer Monday afternoon in the Hillsboro Middle School office. All new or gently used bears dropped off in this box, at the Hillsboro Public Library or in Hillsboro elementary classrooms through Dec. 15 will go to Wichita-based Victory in the Valley to be given to first-time cancer patients.

The latest model of Tickle Me Elmo may be the stuffed animal of choice for some kids this Christmas, but at Hillsboro schools this season, Victory Bears are all the rage.

Even more surprising, students aren’t asking for them-they’re giving them, thanks to organizational efforts of the school’s chapter of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

The Victory Bears-donated teddies of all shapes and styles-will be given to newly diagnosed cancer patients through Victory in the Valley, a Wichita-based organization serving cancer patients and their families.

Last year, VV volunteers distributed 526 bears as a source of encouragement to cancer patients-and not just children.

The need continues during this holiday season.

“They’re in real need of teddy bears,” said FCCLA adviser Monica Leihy. “You wouldn’t believe what it means to these people.”

Led by student chair Katrina Muzyka, Hillsboro’s FCCLA already contributed 79 Victory Bears to VV’s inventory from a drive during October and early November.

“We’re hoping we can do the same number-about 80 bears,” Leihy said about this go-round, for which the deadline has been extended to Friday, Dec. 15.

Medium-sized bears, new or gently used, may be dropped off at the elementary- or middle-school offices or at the Hillsboro Public Library during open hours.

For more information, contact Leihy at 947-3991.

“You’d be surprised how many bears are out there that people wouldn’t mind letting go, knowing that they’ll still be loved,” Leihy said.

A number of other area businesses, schools and other organizations are also offering residents chances to give generously this holiday season by sponsoring charity drives to collect money, food and other items for needy families in the area.

Be sure to note the deadline for dropping off donations at each of the following locations.

Hillsboro Middle School homeroom classes are competing to collect the most canned goods for the Main Street Ministries food pantry.

Items may be sent with a student or taken to the middle-school office or homeroom classrooms. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 15.

Emprise Bank, 104 E. Grand, Hillsboro, and the Hillsboro Community Medical Center have put up a Silver Angel Tree in the bank’s lobby, offering community members the chance to provide gifts for senior citizens in HCMC’s long-term care.

Each of the paper angels on the tree lists the individual’s gender and gift suggestions.

Gifts should be returned to the bank by Dec. 19.

For more information, call Brenda Byrd at 947-3141.

Hillsboro State Bank, 200 N. Main, has put up a Christmas Giving Tree, offering area residents a chance to “fulfill the wishes of needy children in the area.”

Each tag on the tree includes the child’s age and gender and a description of the desired gift. Gifts should not be wrapped and brought to the bank by Dec. 18.

For more information, call Shelly Rooker at 947-3961.

Marion Community Christmas has put up angel trees at several area businesses to collect gifts for needy families in the area.

Through this project staffed by volunteers from the Marion-Florence and Centre school districts, about 60 families each year receive care packages that include children’s gifts, large food boxes, blankets, personal care items and baby-care items.

Participants can pick up angels from trees at the following area businesses: in Marion, Central National Bank, County Seat, Duckwall’s Variety Store, St. Luke Hospital, Marion National Bank and Tampa State Bank; in Florence, Cottonwood Valley Bank and Wilbur’s Market; Tampa State Bank in Tampa and Pilsen State Bank in Lincolnville.

Gifts must be returned to these locations or to the Marion Chamber of Commerce at 203 N. Third during the week of Dec. 11 in time for distribution from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 20 in the city building basement.

For more information, contact Margo Yates at 620-382-3425.

The Big Scoop in Marion is accepting donations to purchase gifts for residents of Marion Manor and St. Luke Living Center who don’t have family or friends nearby.

For more information, call 620-382-3838.

Marion Auto Supply, 115 E. Main, is an official Toys for Toddlers dropoff site for new, unwrapped toy donations for any age child.

Donations will be accepted through Dec. 22. They will then be given to the Community Christmas project for distribution.

For more information, call Mike Regnier at 620-382-2149.

Centre High School student council is sponsoring a food drive for needy families in the area.

Donations will be accepted until Dec. 23. For more information, call 785-983-4321.

Legacy Park, 407 N. Locust, Peabody, is collecting canned and non-perishable food items for the food pantry at Peabody Christian Church, Division and Sycamore.

Donations will be accepted at either location through Dec. 22.

Peabody-Burns High School, 810 N. Sycamore, Peabody, is collecting personal care items for the Newton Women’s Battered Shelter.

In the project sponsored by student council, classes are competing for a pizza party to see which can collect the most items.

Donations of personal care items such as shampoo, toilet paper, lotions and toothpaste may be dropped off for the class of choice until Dec. 15. For more information, call 620-983-2196.

The Florence Police Department is collecting money, toys and non-perishable food items for several needy families in town.

Donations will be accepted at the city office, 511 Main, until Dec. 20.

For more information, call Darla Gore at 620-878-4296.

The Goessel Ministerial Alliance and Citizens State Bank, Goessel, are sponsoring a Christmas Giving Tree at the bank to “help with some of the expenses of Christmas for those families in need.”

Applications to have a child’s name on the tree are available at the bank, Goessel, Tabor or Alexanderwohl Mennonite churches and the Goessel Elementary School and Goessel High School offices.

They must be turned in as soon as possible to any of the churches or the credit union.

Each child’s name turned in will get at least two anonymous tags on the tree with his or her age, gender and gift description.

Wrapped gifts must be returned to the bank by Dec. 21.

For more information, call the bank at 367-2264.

Goessel Elementary School, 500 E. Main, is holding a food drive until Dec. 13 for the Tabor Mennonite Church food pantry.

The pantry specifically needs laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet paper, cereal, canned fruit, Hamburger Helper, ketchup, peanut butter and Van Camp’s pork and beans.

For more information, call Denise at 620- 367-4601.

If your business, church or other non-profit organization is sponsoring a holiday drive that is open to the public and was not listed in this week, contact the Free Press at 620-947-5702 or by noon Monday, Dec. 11, and we will publish that information in next week’s edition.

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