Special gifts for special needs


CDDOChristmasMosharay3797 One Hillsboro woman has again made it her personal mission to provide free Christmas decorations and other festive items to people with special needs.

For the third year, Lucretia Vance offered ornaments, miniature Christmas trees, garland, bows and other items to people who otherwise may not afford them

This year, she opened her distribution effort for two hours Friday in the Hillsboro City Building.

Vance said throughout the year she collects items from a variety of businesses and individuals willing to donate new or fairly new Christmas accessories so she can pass the items along to others.

Working in conjunction with the Harvey-Marion County Community Development Disability Organization, Vance said her reason for starting the project emerged after she took over guardianship of her brother, Larry Schmidt.

?Larry was severely and mentally injured at birth and now lives at Grand Oaks in Hillsboro needing care 24 hours a day,? she said.

As part of her guardianship duties, Vance said she deals with a lot of agencies to access services for her brother who has cerebral palsy and severe mental retardation.

While doing so, she met other clients in the system and discovered most were on limited budgets.

?They didn?t have money for Christmas and I wanted to help,? she said. ?I collect decorations throughout the year, either from stores that might be throwing things away or by donations, at garage sales or auctions.?

Vance said she stores items, then organizes a Christmas giveaway.

 CDDOChristmasVance3801cmyk The first two years, she made the decorations available in Newton, but this year she changed the location to Hillsboro.

The average number of people who ?shop? for the free merchandise, she said, is between 25 and 30.

?I am hoping to have 50 families this year,? she said.

The event is a family affair, she said.

?I have my elves with me?my husband, Robert, my brother, Donavan Schmidt and my mom, Wilma Schmidt,? she said.

Vance said she couldn?t even begin to guess how much inventory she had collected.

?It took two pickup truckloads and we have items on 11 long tables,? she said.

For Vance and her family, the giveaway is worth the time it takes to pack, unpack and store the items.

?Last year,? she said, ?I had people come up to me and say, ?Look what I found? or ?Look what I got.??

Vance said she would tell them to make a pile and keep shopping for as many free items as they wanted.

For people associated with CDDO but unable to make it to Friday?s giveaway, Vance said she would be willing to make items available to them.

?Last year some people wanted Christmas trees, but they were all gone by the time the event was over,? she said. ?I got in contact with some people who had trees and it worked out.?

Vance said she doesn?t work outside the home, but does work closely with CDDO on this project.

Even though this year?s event is over, she said she needs help for next year.

?One thing I would like to stress to businesses or residents is that if after Christmas this year they have decorations they no longer want, please call me or CDDO,? she said.

?I will take the items and keep them until next year.?

Any decorations or other items associated with Chris?tmas are needed, Vance said.

The project has only been under way for three years, but Vance said she started collecting items two years earlier.

?People with special needs are closest to my heart and it?s why I want to do this,? she said.

For more information or to contribute Christmas decorations, call Vance at 316-461-6781 or CDDO at 316-283-7997.

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