By Woodrow Polston
Children and adults of all ages made their way into the gymnasium of Van-Far Elementary school on Sunday afternoon to participate in the annual Christmas From a Small Town Heart event, which has become a much anticipated service to the community for more than five years.
The event, coordinated by Parents as Teachers educator, Lori Culwell, relies heavily on the donations of new and lightly used items for the occasion.
“In the past, we had to limit the amount of items that the kids would take, due to a minimum number of donations,” said Culwell. “This year, we received so many donations that we are not putting a limit on anything. We are talking to the kids and encouraging them to shop for others, and to recognize that it truly is better to give than to receive,” she added.
There was a wide variety of items that children and adults alike could choose from. Toys, books, jewelry, nick-knacks, Christmas decorations and much more. For those who were waiting to shop in some of the crowded areas of the gym, there was a table of cookies and hot cocoa to tide them over. A long line was patiently waiting with gifts in hand, as members of United Credit Union gift wrapped them for the shoppers.
“We have wrapped a lot of gifts today,” said Charla Smith. “Between all of us who were busy wrapping today, we estimated that we wrapped more than 1,000 gift items for those who were here,” she added.
As the event neared a close, the many tables that were once crowded with merchandise, had been mostly cleared off, save a few items here and there. School staff and volunteers would gather up all the remaining items after 4 p.m., when the event was scheduled to end. “When we come back to school on Tuesday, we will let all the kids come back through, class by class, and let those who didn’t have a chance to be here today pick out items that were left over. Last year, everything remaining after that, was given to the Help Center. We have seen a good turn out today, so hopefully everything will be gone after Tuesday,” added Culwell.
About 266 people came to shop at the event, according to those who were keeping track. The total number of shoppers last year was 213, proving that the event is gaining popularity.
“It went very well today,” said school Principal Brian Hummel. “It looks like most of the tables have been cleared off. And if people can come in and take things that they can use, it is a good thing to be able to do,” he added.
There was also a craft table set up, where children could make their own Christmas tree ornaments. There were even stacks of Christmas cards available for anyone to take home with them as well. Many of the children also had the opportunity to visit with Santa, who was there with one of his elves during the event.