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12-08-2009


Cumberlands’ Mountain Outreach Helps Make Christmas “Merry” for Some Local Families

 


Freshman volunteer Jeffrey Barnett mans one of the age group stations during Mountain Outreach Gift Day.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. — The first snowfall of the year did not keep the volunteers for University of the Cumberlands’ Mountain Outreach (MO) from assisting 176 local families at the organization’s annual Gift Day on December 5. Because of the group’s efforts, not only on Saturday but also throughout the year, 435 children will have Christmas gifts that their families might not otherwise have been able to provide.

The 167 volunteers included 52 students and 7 faculty or staff members from the university, as well as groups from four states. Participating churches were Immanuel and Coral Hill Baptist Churches from Glasgow; Clinch River Baptist Church from Clinton, Tenn.; Calhoun Baptist Church from Calhoun Ga.; and Green Meadows and College Park Baptist Churches from Winston-Salem, N.C. Many of these groups, as well as other organizations and individuals, also contributed materially or financially to the success of Gift Day, resulting in the distribution of 807 gifts.

 


During Mountain Outreach Gift Day, children had a safe place to play with members of U of C’s KEASP while their parents chose Christmas gifts.

Participating families had registered several days prior to the event. When they arrived at the Mountain Outreach warehouse on Gift Day, they signed in, and each was escorted by a volunteer who pointed out the age-appropriate gifts available, helped to carry the gifts as selections were made, and then helped the shoppers to the family’s car. Families also visited MO’s Distribution Center, where the organization provides gently-used, donated clothing, household items, toys and personal items throughout the year.

“This event went much better than expected, considering the weather,” said Marc Hensley, director of Mountain Outreach. “More people than ever used the Distribution Center this year, but I believe this was the most efficient and effective Gift Day we’ve ever had.”

One volunteer faculty member, Dr. Anita Bowman, was in charge of the Distribution Center, and was pleased with the turnout. “Everyone seems to be finding clothing and items they really need,” she said. While participants shopped, several volunteers continually restocked the racks, tables and shelves from boxes of donated goods. According to Hensley, “They did an excellent job of serving all the families who came to the Center, and before they left, they completely restocked the Center, so that it will be ready to reopen after the first of the year.”

The university’s chapter of KEASP, Kentucky Education Association Student Program, conducted a childcare area in the rear of the Mountain Outreach Distribution Center, where children could play with the future teachers while their parents shopped. Forty-one children participated so that their parents could surprise them with Christmas gifts.

The MO students also gave out food vouchers on Saturday that can be used at a local grocery for specific food items. Hensley said, “I asked them to trust their hearts, and that also meant they had to engage folks in order find out who needed the assistance. When they returned to me at the end of the day, they had given away 31 vouchers. Some of these folks were people that we had done work for in the past, and some were randomly chosen. One family has 9 children.”

Mountain Outreach is a student-led construction ministry whose summer building program has constructed 132 homes in 26 years. Throughout the year, the group also constructs wheelchair ramps and makes other small repairs and renovations for local residents, who, for physical or financial reasons, cannot make the home improvements themselves.