Once again Fulton County Christmas Cheer is gearing up to serve the needy families in the county for the holiday season. Over 1,200 families were selected and invited to participate in that annual give-away. From Monday, December 5 through Thursday the 8th the Junior Fair Building at the fairgrounds will be the hub of activity.
Volunteers create a make-shift store and stock it full with items families may most need. The program prides itself on dignity, so families who participate can come in and shop each department to select the items they could best use.
With a Cheer volunteer the family representative shops the food section with everything from canned meats and soups, to mac and cheese, fruits, juices and vegetables. In the toiletries section families can select items like toilet tissue, detergents and health aides. The toy section is stocked with brand new toys all valued at between $10 and $40. And over the last several years a general store has opened giving families the opportunity to select from an ever-changing assortment of things like warm hats, gloves, blankets and sometimes Christmas decorations.
Organizers are always seeking donations. Cash donations, all spent within the county, are used to buy in economical case lots to fill spaces on the shelves. New, warm, washable full-sized blankets are always welcomed as are goods for the store especially detergent and 4-packs of toilet tissue, shampoos, body washes, boxed cereals, and canned goods with meat included.
For over 30 years Cecily Rohrs of Archbold has been the chairman of the county-wide effort. “But,” she quickly points out, “it’s the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen. Many volunteers sort and stock the donations on Monday and Tuesday of the busy week and still others come to shop beside the families as they carefully make their choices from the shelved donations. It takes a big crew to set up and tear down inside the Junior Fair building and still others to provide the noon meal for the volunteers.”
If school students in the county collect goods for the effort, with a little student assistance, those goods will be picked up at the school on Monday morning, December 5th and transported to the Junior Fair Building. Rohrs quickly points out that those pick-ups need to be scheduled early by calling the phone coordinator, Mona, at 419-572-9907.
However, if churches, families, work-sites and community groups collect goods, they are asked to drop those donations off at the Junior Fair Building at the north end of the fairgrounds on Monday the 5th between 10 and 4 or on Tuesday morning the 6th between 9:00 and 11:00. The chairman reminds donors that there are volunteers to help unload at the drop off site.
The massive effort is one of the county’s finest cooperative efforts according to Rohrs. Over 1,200 families were invited to participate this year and if they make the November 15th registration deadline, they will receive a letter in the mail that serves as the ticket to participate. The households being served are families with children, individuals and even the elderly living on limited means. Those needs are met by a diverse donor base of companies, schools, churches, families and civic groups. “It’s probably the coming together of all segments of our county that thrills me the most,” Rohrs said. “With loyal volunteers I’m proud to say the program runs like a well-oiled machine.”
The Cheer program has a web site that provides details on the program which now runs year round. That web site is fultoncountychristmascheer.org At that site readers can learn that the program now serves the needy year ‘round by accepting and sharing good used vehicles. Also under the Cheer umbrella is the Fulton County Furniture Program. Vehicles, appliances, bedding, sofas, and tables and chairs are now recycled from those who no longer need those things and given to those who can use them. That contact number is at St. Martins Lutheran Church 419-445-4656.
“We hate it that we have to run the Christmas give-away so early in the month,” the Chairman explained. “But we need the zest and strength of our county’s school students in our store. We simply couldn’t bring it all together without them and with some schools having exams and time to prep for those exams before the Christmas break, the early December give-away is the only feasible way to make it happen.”