Families first

By Lena Mitchell and Hank Wiesner/Daily Journal and Southern Sentinel

BLUE MOUNTAIN – All of the elements that make a strong community – people, churches, businesses and local government – have come together again this year to make sure the children of Blue Mountain have a joyous Christmas.
On Saturday, the town held a distribution of food baskets, turkeys, and toys to 66 families selected for this year’s donations, which includes 210 children.
“Last year was our first year,” said Blue Mountain Mayor Doug Norton. “Local people came together and tried to do something for the community. Dirt Cheap donated the toys, individuals gave money, the supervisors gave the turkeys and area churches helped with food baskets.”
Eight more families were helped this year, and they applied through churches, schools and town hall.
“It takes a lot of time, planning and work to get everything done, so we had to cut it off at a certain time,” Norton said. “We pretty much know everybody in our community and that helped us pick the families.”
“This is a wonderful example of the community coming together to help needy families,” said Michelle Hopkins.
Added Martha Starks: “It makes you feel good to have someone think about you at Christmastime. No one has to do anything for you, so I certainly appreciate it when they do.”
As town officials discussed how to share holiday spirit last year, Norton said they were aware of the need to support grandparents who have assumed the role of parent for many of the community’s children.
“There are a lot of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, have custody, or their grandkids are living with them,” he said. “Most of them are on a fixed income and with the economy like it is it’s tough. A lot of families we help are not grandparents, but basically it’s set up for grandparents.”
Long before the town put up holiday decorations, the Christmas spirit was apparent all around Blue Mountain as residents got into the swing of things for the giveaway.
“All the work is volunteered and everything is donated,” Norton said. “We couldn’t have all the families there at one time so we had to make up a schedule and let the families know the time someone could come to pick out the toys for their kids and pick up the Christmas baskets.”
The distribution was done from City Hall and the mayor’s office was set up as the host site to receive family members.
“A host takes a family member in to pick out the toys, then volunteers wrap presents and put their name on it,” the mayor said. “Only a couple of people at a time could go in our toy room, and we had two tables of volunteers just wrapping presents.”
The family member then went back out and drove around to the back of city hall where the wrapped and labeled gifts, food baskets and turkeys were loaded into the vehicle.
“It’s a wonderful thing that this can be done,” Norton said. “We’ve had a lot of area businesses and individuals who donated money when they found out what our project is. We want to thank all the area churches, business owners and individuals who helped make this thing come true.”

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