Before the sun was even up Sunday morning, a Christmas miracle was taking place in Jackson County.
More than 150 people — men, women and children — came together, giving of their time and effort, to deliver boxes of wrapped toys to low-income families in the community.
Tammi Engelking and her family had no idea what to expect when they arrived at the Christmas Miracle headquarters at the Shops of Seymour to load up their vehicles. It was their first year to volunteer.
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Engelking had heard at work there was a need for more people to deliver, so she decided it would be a good way for her and her husband, Kevin, and their son, Kevin, to spend part of their holiday.
“I think it’s awesome, and it gives more meaning to Christmas than just opening gifts,” she said.
One family on their list of stops had six children, while another had five. But through donations from many local businesses, organizations and individuals, each of those children received presents.
“No child deserves not to have anything for Christmas,” Engelking said.
Some would wake up to a new bicycle purchased by Rose Acre Farms and their employees and vendors, and each child received their own new, fleece blanket. Other toys were wrapped giving children the opportunity to open a gift for Christmas.
This was Tim Lush’s third year volunteering. As an employee of Rose Acre, Lush said the company is heavily involved in Christmas Miracle and giving back to the community.
By delivering presents, he said it allows his daughter to see how fortunate she is.
Another Rose Acre employee, Haley Riordan, said she was excited to be volunteering for the first time.
After participating in fundraisers through work to raise money for Christmas Miracle, Riordan said she decided to represent her employer by delivering too.
“Christmas should be about the season of giving to others,” she said. “Helping those around us and giving back.”
To be eligible for Christmas Miracle, families filled out applications through Jackson County Sertoma and listed a few items each child wanted. Children have to be 12 years or younger and live in Jackson County. The wish lists were made available to the public through “angel trees.” Anyone could “adopt” an angel and purchase the listed items.
Sertoma’s Christmas Miracle Project has been a tradition in Jackson County since 1972. That first year, 140 children received new dolls, toys and games donated by church groups, sewing circles, Brownies and 4-H clubs including over 225 families, according to Chairman Ralph P. Michael’s report. Sertoma members, delivering gifts to all corners of Jackson County, collectively accumulated 300 hours and spent more than $100 to promote the first Christmas Miracle, according to the report.
In all, 755 kids from 311 families received presents Christmas Eve morning. John Fox, co-chairman of the project, said those numbers are up from last year when 280 families and 713 children were served.
“That’s about a 10 percent increase in box numbers and 6 percent up in the number of children,” Fox said.
The increase he said is likely the result of what he called a “baby boom.”
“We had a lot of 1- and 2-year-olds that were new to Charity Tracker,” he said. That program prevents Sertoma from duplicating services.
While people were out delivering, Fox remained at Christmas Miracle Headquarters in case there were gifts that couldn’t be delivered because no one answered the door.
“We’ll make several attempts at delivery,” he said.
Fox said Sertoma appreciates all those in the community who buy gifts, wrap presents and deliver.
“We want to say thanks and please come again,” he said with a chuckle.
He can’t imagine not being part of Christmas Miracle.
“It makes Christmas for our family,” he said. “We’ve got three generations that are delivering for us.”