H.E.L.P. House Community Outreach in London swings into full gear as it prepares for its annual Christmas Shopping Day for parents and guardians.
The event, which is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., today, Saturday, Dec. 16 gives underprivileged parents the ability to provide a Christmas that includes gifts to their children.
The toys (as well as funds to purchase new ones) are donated from a variety of sources, such as local churches, schools, businesses and individuals with Christmas spirit to spare.
Families pre-register with H.E.L.P. House to let the organization know their need and how many children they have.
This year, around 500 kids will be able to celebrate Christmas thanks to the H.E.L.P. House.
The parents will leave with four or five gifts per child.
H.E.L.P. House is unusual as a pantry in that it serves clients in other counties. At last count, it served people in 13 different ones, according to founder and director, Dee Heilman.
The Christmas Shopping Day event is no small task to undertake — a small group of volunteers work throughout the year storing and cleaning donated toys.
The preparations begin in earnest about October when the gift items begin to leave the garages and spare rooms in which they were stored, and appear in the H.E.L.P. House building on Center Street.
By the week of the event, the building is a veritable Santa’s workshop piled with toys awaiting their turns to be categorized by type and child’s age.
While many of the toys are brand new and purchased specifically for H.E.L.P. House purpose, others are gently used and need some tender loving care before they are considered suitable for gift-giving.
H.E.L.P. House volunteer, Maggie Wagner, has been collecting and refurbishing dolls for the event for 18 years.
This year she has collected and worked on 125 baby dolls she said.
She washes each doll and works on making their hair presentable if needed.
Often, the dolls come without clothing. When they do, Wagner looks through her many drawers of doll outfits to find a fit. If nothing can be found, she hand-knits the clothing herself.
This year she made about a third of the collected doll clothing herself.
“I get them naked, but no babies get sent out naked!” she chuckled. She also made 40 bags of various smaller gifts suitable for young teens.
“It is more difficult to do things for the older kids,” Wagner said, “especially for the boys.” Besides the four or five allotted toys, a few lucky children will win bicycles. Because of the limited amount of these, they will be given out to parents requesting them by way of lottery.
The H.E.L.P. House is always grateful for donations of cash and hard goods, as well as the time and effort of volunteers — be it Christmas or any time of the year.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.