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Spirit of Christmas in Polk County

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A customer is helped out to the parking lot after shopping for gifts at the Center of Hope’s Empty Stocking Program.A customer is helped out to the parking lot after shopping for gifts at the Center of Hope’s Empty Stocking Program.

By Brian Besch
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An area known for its generosity has again provided for those needing help to create special memories at Christmas this year.

The Christmas of Hope Empty Stocking program aided hundreds of clients in providing gifts. Clients at Center of Hope were able to leave little ones in childcare and search for gifts with a personal shopper. They were then wrapped on site and ready for the special day. Brad Butler, youth minister at Livingston’s First Baptist Church, said there was around a month of reorganization that needed to take place to set up a new format. It would allow clients to come in and shop for their children’s Christmas presents to take ownership in the process, choosing a select number of gifts from each price range. In all, over 600 children received part of more than 5,500 toys.

“Center of Hope jumped in and agreed to take leadership of the program on Nov. 1,” Butler said. “I agreed to take the lead on that. At that point, there was an incredible number of people that jumped in and just really started hitting it hard with help. One of the first things we had to do was assign roles. We had to figure out how to make it work quickly.”

Polk County, as it always seems to be during times of need, was extremely generous with their time and money.

“This community was unbelievably generous across the board,” Butler

said. “We had Lions Club, Rotary Club, individuals, businesses and we

had neighborhoods that got together. I met a neighborhood at a store who wanted to spend $5,000 on kids. I walked the aisles of the store with them. When we were first trying to build (the program), We had the money and I would call a manager and say, ‘You know toys, get me what is on clearance and I’ll take $5,000 worth of it,’ and I wouldn’t know what we were getting.

We did that two or three times and then

when we got closer (to opening), we knew what we needed and where we

were weak. We would go and buy $10,000 worth of stuff in an hour. We

did that twice and then we had individuals come in and help.”

Discounts were arranged as much as possible for Empty Stocking and the

youth minister said there were many cases of selfless giving.

“The store manager couldn’t give us the 10% off that he was doing

anymore, so he pulled money out of his pocket and handed it to me. One

day, when we were up there on the big $10,000 thing, an employee saw

what we were doing and went to the ATM and handed me $100 and said, ‘I

know this doesn’t help much, but I want to be a part of this.’ It was


Individuals and groups found a way to lend assistance either

monetarily or through service by giftwrapping, helping shop or

babysitting for those shopping.

On multiple occasions, Butler said clients that had shopped for their

children at Center of Hope returned to give gifts for others. One

volunteered on the final three shopping days at the center, others

made gifts for other families in need to bring home. Another at one

time owned a resale shop and provided gifts for younger children after

shopping for the family’s older children.

“Next year, we will be back, and I hope we will be able to reach more

people,” Butler said. “That is the hope. It is still early in the

process, but I think we will look at how we did some things, because

we want to make sure that we do the best job that we can. We felt

pretty great about how it all rolled out.”

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    James DeBoard · 9 months ago
    I thinks all of the above  is very kind however, We see very little being done for the senior citizens of Polk County. Why is it there is no decent Senior Center in Polk County that is open all day, Provides s  good hot meal and activities for our Seniors.?