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December 24, 2013

Gift Giving from the Heart

Christmas brighter for kids, families thanks to T.J. Memorial and CUE

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer

The weather felt more like winter Monday, but inside the offices of Corbin’s United Effort (CUE) on Barbourville Street, the rooms were aglow with the warmth of holiday giving.

The annual T. J. Memorial Toy Giveaway - hosted by Corbin’s United Effort — made that all possible, as children and their families who may not have Christmas came to receive gifts and visit with Santa Claus himself.

In a room filled with colorful tinsel, holiday decorations and a Christmas Tree in the corner, Santa sat in an easy chair, ready to greet the kiddos.

The festivities began at 10 a.m. and continued into the late afternoon.

During his visit, Good Ole Saint Nick talked with a lot of youngsters, and added there were plenty of smiles to go around.

“It’s going good, really good. But there were some moments that would move you. I had one little boy that came in and I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. The little boy whispered to me in my ear and he said, ‘A house with a porch on it.’ That made my heart humble,” said Santa.

“There was a little girl that drew some pictures, and colored these for Santa. That one said, ‘Merry Christmas, Santa. Love, Aniyah,’” mentioned Michelle, one of Santa’s elves who then showed the picture that became alive thanks to the little girl’s crayons.

Nearby a photographer with the Corbin Public Library was taking pictures of the kids spending time with Santa. When the pictures are finished, the library donates the snapshots to the children’s’ families for free, as a gesture of saying “Merry Christmas.”

The toy run which helped raise most of the money for the gifts was held in October.

It originally began in 1998 as the Wildman Cycles Toy Run. Back then, it raised money to buy toys for the new pediatric ward at Baptist Regional Medical Center (now Baptist Health Corbin hospital).

In 2001, the name was changed to the T. J. Memorial Toy Run, to honor T. J. Nichols. Nichols — a friend of the organizers — died in a motorcycle accident Sept. 30, 2000.

The toy giveaway became connected with CUE in 2006.

Officials said 159 children were helped this year by the toy giveaway. That’s down from 239 children who benefitted from last year’s campaign.

And that’s a concern to Trish Shumate, a volunteer with the Christmas drive.

“The cold weather is slowing them down coming in, but I just don’t know. I know the economy the worse than last year. I’m hoping all the families come in to get their gifts today, because I don’t want any family to do without,” she noted.

Corbin’s United Effort’s director, Jason Hale, admitted the going’s been rough, but there were donations coming in to help out.

“We were able to get some other donations from private citizens and businesses. Times have been tough. Funding’s been a problem for us. Everybody’s pinching pennies because the economy’s down, but there’s a need. If you look at the grand scheme of things, the need’s very much here. For the life necessities that we all need, a lot of people are forced to make decisions on the basic things we take for granted. Some families are having to decide ‘Do you have the money to buy food or pay the electric bill?’” stated Hale.

Thanks to those donations, there were plenty of gifts stocked inside a large room at CUE’s headquarters.

Trish Shumate’s husband, Donald, spent a lot of time with other volunteers gift wrapping the presents, as well as organizing the annual gift-giving day.

He’s volunteered his efforts for the last three years.

“You name it, we’ve got any kind of gift here in this room. Baby dolls, little remote control toys, basketballs, infant’s toy, footballs, plastic three-wheelers for little kids. You name it, Santa brought it and we wrapped ‘em,” Donald Shumate said.

And like many others who give of their time so close to Christmas, he feels the goodwill that comes around when a child and their family are looked after at this special time of year.

“I love volunteering for this. To see the look on the little kids’ faces when they get their present. Their big smiles light up my heart. And this is all for a very worthy purpose. This helps somebody,” he pointed out.

Hale said donations are still welcome, adding that all of the donations go 100 percent to the memorial toy giveaway, and/or CUE programs, and are tax deductible . You can send those donations to the T. J. Memorial or Corbin’s United Effort, P. O. Box 1789, Corbin, KY 40702.

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