QUINCY -- Christmas is coming and there are a lot of people in West Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri who won't get to open presents -- unless someone steps up.
Officials with the Good News of Christmas program, which is sponsored annually by The Herald-Whig and the United Way of Adams County, say the need for volunteers and financial backers is reaching a critical point as the holiday is less than 14 days away. The annual yuletide charity dates back to 1988. Since its inception more than $1.75 million, along with countless volunteer hours and services, has been donated to help more than 1,500 families get back on their feet and to have a memorable Christmas holiday.
This year, 50 families in the region have been selected to be recipients of the Good News of Christmas. Information about the recipients has been published in The Herald-Whig and is also available online at goodnewschristmas.com.
"We'd love to get as many people in the community involved as possible," said Herald-Whig Marketing Manager Nathan Halfpap, who is serving as the coordinator of this year's event. "The goal of Good News of Christmas is to once again have civic groups, individuals, businesses, church groups, or really anyone interested in helping to donate money, to volunteer to purchase gifts, or wrap gifts that will then be given to local families who would struggle otherwise to provide their children with a joyous, memorable Christmas."
Once again, officials have transformed the Community Room at the Quincy Mall into the Good News of Christmas Volunteer Center, which is open Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Among those working in the room on Friday were digital marketing employees with Dot Foods, including Brittany Vermeire and Amelia Baugher, who together with their co-workers adopted one of the families selected as part of this year's campaign.
Both women said the experience of volunteering with the Good News of Christmas has been a positive one.
"It makes me feel very fortunate for the gifts that I am able to give and receive when you see the very basic things that families are in need of and requesting as gifts," Vermeire said. "It is nice to be able to go and get them good cookware or that Crock-Pot that the mother has been wanting so that she can cook dinner for her family. Or how nice it is to get them a movie that they can all watch together as a family or to get the girls and boys cute socks when they ask for socks."
Baugher agreed, saying, "A lot of the things that we think of as necessities such as sheets, pots and pans, are the things that they don't have and desperately want is eye-opening. It makes you think about how sometimes we feel like we don't have all that much, but then you see how much or how little someone else has and you realize how blessed you are to have everything you need."
Vermeire said she would encourage others in the community, especially local school groups, service clubs and organizations, to consider supporting the Good News of Christmas campaign.
"Monetary donations are still needed to support us as we shop for these families," said Vermeire, who has volunteered with the charity for five years. "I'd encourage everyone to come to the center, take a look around at all the boxes that are still open, that still need shopped for, that have items that still need to be wrapped. At this point, your time volunteering wrapping gifts is just as valuable and needed. You get to see just how many families in our community that may not have Christmas if it were not for people like us. It tugs at your hearstrings."
Vermeire said she has volunteered in the past to help parents pick up the gifts from the mall room.
"They are always so grateful. You can just see it on the parents' faces that they are overwhelmed with joy that they are able to provide a Christmas for their family this year."
As of Wednesday, of the 50 cases only 15 families had been adopted and had their wish lists met. Families that Baugher says are "trying so hard, but life keeps getting in the way."
"I think about those parents who Christmas morning is not something that they are excited about, and how they may actually be dreading it, because they know they can't give their children the Christmas they want to give them," Baugher said. "I think about the kids in my own family and how happy they are on Christmas morning. Then, I think about how I'd feel if the situations were different. It makes me want to help them more."