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Christmas Mother helps 118 families

A total of 118 families, approximately 300 children and 65 teens, received extra Christmas cheer this year after a successful distribution day on Friday, Dec. 13, for the Cumberland Christmas Mother. The distribution featured help from area volunteers and Cumberland County Department of Social Services employees. The event was held at the Cumberland Community Center.

The Rev. Barry Vassar, this year’s Christmas “Mother” sat down for an interview with The Herald in order to explain the process of gift distribution.

The Christmas Mother program involves “angel tree gifts.” According to Vassar, when the recipients fill out applications for their children and teens, Christmas Mother volunteers put together “angels” for each child. The angels, a representation of a local child in need this Christmas, include with them a list of items to be gifted to the assigned child, including clothing, hygiene products and toys. The angels were then sent out to local churches and organizations, where individuals or groups could work together in order to complete the angel’s wish list. Vassar highlighted that because some angels are not filled out or given back in time for the distribution date, Christmas Mother volunteers will use donated gifts in order to put together any remaining angel tree gift bags.

After being assigned a volunteer, recipients were given their child’s angel tree gift bag. They were then escorted to a room filled with clothing, most of which was provided by the Cumberland Clothes Closet. Racks upon racks of clothing for infants, children and teens lined the room, where parents or family members could pick out an outfit for their children. Clothing choices included pajamas, everyday wear, dress shirts and dresses, jeans, socks, undergarments and more.

In this room, recipients could also pick out a stuffed animal and a handmade, packed stocking made by Norma Kirby of Cumberland Presbytarian Church. Kirby sewed 125 stockings for the program.

Vassar explained that after picking out some clothing for their child, recipients could then venture into a room filled with toys, games and gifts for children of all ages. The room was filled to the brim with colorful gifts donated to the Christmas Mother program. Recipients were able to work with volunteers in order to find a perfect additional toy or two for their children or teens.

Vassar highlighted that many of the gifts and funds provided to help the Christmas Mother program fulfill children’s requests comes from the Lights at the Lake event held during the first two weekends in December. This year, Lights at the Lake collected 807 toys for the program.

“We have folks that have been part of the program, that have been recipients of it, that have turned around and become volunteers or turned around and ended up taking angels and buying for other children,” said Vassar in reference to his favorite part of the program. “So, to watch that process where somebody’s coming in and saying, ‘Hey, I don’t necessarily have all of the means to provide the full Christmas I want to.’ … To see them go from that point to becoming volunteers who are handing out angels, to become those who are out there raising money, they’re pitching in, helping out at Lights at the Lake, to see that process, it reminds you that there’s room for folks to be able to improve in life and change in life.”

He continued, “When I see others receiving and giving back, that’s really the joy that I get out of it. And also knowing that we have a small hand in meeting so many needs in the community. That’s a sense of fulfillment in and of itself.”