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Christmas Mother fills need

The Cumberland Christmas Mother brought Christmas to 152 area families this year. Of those families, gifts were given to 307 children.

The organization had raised $7,605.49 as of Dec. 21 and is continuing to receive donations. Committee member Debbie Kennel said the organization expects money to come in from the two weekends of “Lights at the Lake,” a fundraiser the Christmas Mother program puts on each year in conjunction with Bear Creek Lake State Park. The event took place Friday-Sunday over two weekends. Visitors could give money or a toy donation to drive through the park and look at Christmas lights.

During the evening of Dec. 11, the event was free and open to the public. Children were invited to take a picture with Santa Claus and everyone was offered a free pancake supper. Donations were accepted during the function.

“It was great,” Kennel said of the six fundraising days at the park. “We had cash donations of $1,442,” she said, noting there were 344 cars and 304 toys donated.

She said the committee was very happy and so were members of the state park.

Kennel said she was also satisfied with the donations that came in this year, as well as a lower number of families in need.

“The numbers were down, which is a good sign that people are getting back to work and able to support themselves,” Kennel said. “I hope that continues, but I can’t say that it will.”

This year’s Christmas Mother, Barry Vassar, agreed.

“I would like to see some of the recipients from this year be in a better place next year and become part of our efforts as well to serve others,” Vassar said. “The donations that came in were higher and we had more volunteers from Bear Creek Academy and from the community.”

Kennel said she had the best volunteers, who came from Cartersville, Cumberland, Farmville and even National Honor Society students from Cumberland County High School.

During the gift giveaways, which took place Dec. 13 and 16, recipients were given appointment times and came to pick up their gifts, including those picking up Angel Tree gifts. Recipients are allowed to go into a room filled with gifts, such as toys and outfits, and pick out a certain number of what they would like to choose.

Kennel said all but about 15 children applied for Angel Tree gifts, meaning nearly 300 community members participated with the Angel Trees by donating a specific gift for a specific child.

“A lot of people gave gifts this year,” Kennel said. “I’d say 89 percent get exactly what they’re asking for unless we have people asking for electronics, tablets, things we don’t do.”

Vassar said the group served 53 seniors at a senior luncheon this year, which he said was “a little more than last year.”

Kennel said she hopes the program will continue to have success next year and that more people will keep working to be able to support themselves. Vassar said he is looking forward to seeing new partnerships with churches and area businesses become more involved during the next season.

The organization thanked everyone who donated and volunteered this year.