Program provides Christmas gifts to 400 needy residents

Those weren't elves scattering about Big Spring Friday, but they definitely qualified as Santa's helpers.Volunteers with the Hometown Christmas program capped their third annual effort Friday, fanning out across the area, delivering Christmas presents to needy families and children.Sixty families and about 400 people — roughly twice the number helped in 2011 — received gifts through the program this year, said volunteer Kathy Johnson.“And (requests) are still coming in,” Johnson said. “As long as we have the money and the presents, we'll keep filling the requests. We're even doing some special things. There was a little boy who wanted a heart necklace for his mother, so we got one for him.”Although many gifts had been distributed by early Friday afternoon, the group's headquarters was still brimming with toys and other items awaiting delivery.The reason for the program's success, Johnson said, is simple.“We've had people just walk in off the street and give us money,” she said. “One lady read about our program and brought in a box full of baby dolls. People would buy gifts for a whole family and drop them off for us to deliver … We've just had a whole lot of help from the community.”Group member Jeanie Knocke said Hometown Christmas was formed about three years ago.“Well Fargo (Bank) started it,” Knocke said. “We work on it all year. We start collecting gifts in January and we keep them in the (bank) storeroom until now.”The group obtains names of needy families through Big Spring Independent School District and other sources, determines what the children want for Christmas, then get busy filling that wish list, Knocke said.It's not just children who benefit from the group's efforts. Along with toys and clothes for the little ones, Hometown Christmas will also deliver turkeys and hams to their families, along with toiletry, household and clothing items for needy adults.