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Five months ago, a group of Wapakoneta area people got together and started planning an annual event aimed at bringing cheer to local residents during the holiday season.
Two weeks ago, the same group started by dividing items into boxes and by the end of the Friday night prior to their delivery — wrapped toys and gifts stretched upward out of those boxes. The group even started dividing food stuffs.
Like Christmas Eve, excitements filled the air of the Junior Fair Building at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds in anticipating of the joy they will bring to needy families in the area.
On Saturday morning, members of civic groups, Boy Scout troops and firefighters with four fire departments joined to deliver the gifts for the Christmas Cheer program.
“The event is going really well today and that is due to the fact we have had a lot of people show up, a good group of volunteers, and Mother Nature is treating us well with some warm weather. Hopefully we get everything out before the rain moves in,” Wapakoneta Fire Chief Kendall Krites said a couple hours into the delivery of the boxes. “Everyone is working hard and everybody seems to be in the Christmas spirit.”
Krites provided a roll call of groups helping including firefighters from Buckland, St. Johns, Uniopolis and Wapakoneta as well as the Wapakoneta Lion’s Club, the Wapakoneta Rotary Club, Boy Scout Troop 4 and members of the Wapakoneta City Administration Building.
“Everyone says this is a great program and that is why they keep coming back to help,” Krites said. “The first year that a couple of members from the Rotary got involved, they went back and told their members that they really need to see what is out there and this is a great program that helps a lot of people locally.”
Krites, admitting while this is not a true indicator of the economic conditions in the region, said the economy might be improving because they had fewer applications this year, a decline to 325 from from 336 families last year. A few years ago, the number stayed steady at 324.
He also credited the growth in the number of people helping on delivery day — as well as those people who devoted hours getting ready for delivery day — as evidence the event will continue to be a success and ensuring it so in the future.
“I cannot speak for everybody, but I think today means a lot to them and I think that is spoken through the fact that they just keep coming back to help,” Krites said. “It must mean something positive to them, they see a need and they want to help out those who need help in our community.”
One person who has participated in the event for years is Stan Maxson, a member of the Wapakoneta Lion’s Club.
“I tell you what you get into some of these houses and you can tell these little kids are waiting for Santa,” Maxson said. “Some of these people are surprised, I don’t think they know it is coming, but it makes you feel good to make them happy.”
Wapakoneta Rotary Club member Nicole Bowen shared she joined the local organization to help out in Wapakoneta because this is where she wants to live and raise her family. This is just one of the events in which she could participate.
“I thought it was important for me to help out because it is a good program,” Bowen said. “My sister heads up the Adopt-a-Family program in Allen County and this is my way of helping out with this here.”
Her first trip of the morning was distributing food to residents of Defiance Commons. While she spent time talking with Defiance Commons residents, she shared her excitement in delivering presents to children.
“I am really excited and this is getting me into the Christmas spirit,” Bowen said. “That is what it is all about during the holiday season — helping out others and spreading joy.”
For an eighth-grader, the experience goes beyond a Boy Scout service project.
For Dylan Lord, it is a chance to give back and share time with his family, whom he volunteers with, and his extended family, his Boy Scout troop members.
“We do it to give back to the community and it is just one of those things that you feel good after you’ve done it,” said Lord, who does it despite the work being tiring and having to wake up early. “I enjoy it, I hope the kids enjoy because it is nice to help the community.
“I’ve been with this Scout troop since the first grade, so this Scout troop is like a family to me,” he said. “I’ve seen people who have cried, I have seen people who are so happy it makes them laugh yet they still have a tear in their eye. You have conversations that last five minutes, but it makes you feel good and that lasts a lifetime.”