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By Whitney Keith
In this time of holiday traditions and ceremonies, many local residents have turned their minds and hearts to what they can do for others in the community.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has participated in two charity events this holiday season.
The sheriff’s office distributed over 60 coats last week to local schools. This was the second year for the program, which begins with a summer softball tournament to raise money to buy the coats.
Sheriff Chris Degase then obtained a list of those in needs of coats from the schools and partners with the local Wal-Mart to purchase the coats.
The sheriff’s office, along with The Ava Police Department and local Missouri Highway Patrol officers, recently participated in “Shop With A Cop.”
That program pairs local children in the foster care system with a law enforcement officer, who purchases Christmas presents with and for the child.
That program is organized by Wal-Mart, where the shopping is done.
The Ava Art Guild decided not to sell small, decorated Christmas trees as they have in years past, but instead donated the trees to Heart of the Ozarks Healthcare Center to be placed in the residents’ rooms.
The guild also decorated seven large trees, which will be donated to Heart of the Hills Food Pantry for families who can’t afford to buy a tree.
The guild is also collecting items for the Wright County Children’s Home, including clothing, toiletries, and new toys.
Donations can be dropped off at the Art Guild (303 E. Washington in Ava) until Dec. 11 at 4 p.m.
Ava Kiwanis has sponsored Christmas For Kids for the past several years.
The group seeks families who have “fallen through the cracks,” and aren’t being helped by other agencies.
Ozarks Family Vision Centre runs a toy drive for the program. New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the vision center (located on the southeast corner of the Ava square) through Dec. 15.
“We wrap the gifts and deliver them,” said Donna Dixon of Kiwanis. “It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun.”
The Foster Parent Support Group for the 44th Circuit (Douglas, Wright and Ozark counties) has received many donations for their annual foster kids Christmas party.
Sue Gray is vice-president of the group, and said that the group has received many wonderful donations.
“For the last few years, Life Church has been a big sponsor, and they came through again this year,” Gray said.
Many children in the foster care system are lonely around the holidays, and having a big Christmas party can make them feel special.
“We feel every child needs love and support to ease their transitions,” Gray said.
“We want to make sure the community knows that we provide a home and love for these kids, but we also try to support their biological parents.
“The end goal is typically to re-unite these families, and we try to help in that goal as much as we can.”
The Christmas party will include a dinner, gifts for the children, games, and a visit from Santa Claus.
Gray added that if anyone is interested in becoming a foster parent, or is a current foster parent looking for more information on the group, they may contact her at 417-683-3996.
In Ava’s past, the Ava Lions Club had the “Lions Christmas Cheer.”
The program was a store in the Barnes Shopping Center where needy families could shop for new clothing, toys and non-perishable food.
Families suffering from burnout, unemployment or illness were invited to fill out an application with the Department of Family Services and, if accepted, shop at the store.
The store was reported on in a December issue of the 1985 Douglas County Herald.
Over 150 families, or 600 individuals, were served by the store in the previous year, the article reported.
Reflections is a weekly column exploring the history of Douglas County. Current topics include local festivals, school history and Douglas County residents who have a special talent. If you have an idea for an article, please call 417-683-4181 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org