By REBECCA HAZEN
Thanks to a small idea started and organized by Debbie Manwarren, 160 kids from 60 families will have presents under the Christmas tree this year, in addition to a Christmas dinner.
“I work for Amazon, so my life hasn’t changed at all. Money has been just fine for us, but I know that in our little community, it’s been rough. We have a lot of young families,” Manwarren said.
Manwarren decided that she wanted to help a couple of kids out this year, so she put word out on the New Home Community Facebook page, and asked if anyone would be interested.
A few families, mainly grandparents and aunts and uncles contacted Manwarren. A Facebook page was set up, Trenton Santa Train, and it spread by word of mouth.
“We said that 40 kids was going to be our original cap and it just kept growing. Then the cap was going to be 100 kids or the day after Thanksgiving, which ever came first. Even since the cut off we added more. Officially the number was 160 with 60 families,” Manwarren said.
Manwarren continued, “I’ve been asked many times, what if these people don’t really need it? What if they are getting help from other agencies? That’s not for me to judge.”
For each child that was signed up, their clothing size was asked for, in addition to a want or a need.
As the number of children increased, an Amazon wish list was made.
“Things just start showing up. My poor mailman,” Manwarren laughed.
It was also decided to provide the fixings for a full Christmas dinner for each family that signed up.
Donations of gifts came from both local people and businesses. For instance, Bottom Dollar Tools bought items from the list, and Mom N Pops made stockings. Hunter’s Salvage Grocery donated food for the dinners. Mountain Top Auction & Sales held a raffle and gave Manwarren a check for $235 to finish buying turkeys.
The dinner included turkey, stuffing, ingredients for both mashed potatoes and a pumpkin pie, cranberries, green bean casserole and macaroni and cheese. Recipes were included for everything.
As the amount of gifts added up, they were organized at New Life Church of God.
A Toy Run was also organized by a community member, to purchase more gifts. Thirteen motorcyclists and a few cars got together at Walmart and shopped for gifts. Some also gave a monetary donation. Little Caesars donated pizza for the shoppers.
“I have been in the store, and people will recognize me,” Manwarren said. “One woman handed me a $10 bill, and she said, ‘This is all I can give. I wish I could help more.’ That little amount means so much more though.”
Last week, two truckloads of items were taken from Manwarren’s house to the church, which was not counting the stuff already at the church.
Every child will open a piece of clothing and at least two other gifts on Christmas. Some will get a little more because they were sponsored by other families.
“I would like to see more sponsors next year,” Manwarren said.
Yes, that means that Manwarren wants to do this again next year.
“So many people have said, ‘So when we do this next year … ’ Yes, I think that this is a needed thing for the future as well. I would like to have my own storage unit and prep all year long. Maybe I can be an outreach for these families all year long,” Manwarren said.
The gifts were picked up by the families on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Santa Claus also made an appearance during the pick-up.
Manwarren thinks that the Santa Train was a complete success, thanks to the support from the community.
“It shows that even in your hardest times, people will be there to pick you up, with no judgements. These people just want to be heard and to be validated. If a meal and a gift for their kid can be validating, then great. Let’s show some love and support, because we know this has been a tough year,” Manwarren said.
Manwarren continued, “It’s like the faith of a mustard seed. It’s so small. All it takes is that minuscule amount to turn it into something big. This started out as a tiny little idea and look at what we’ve done.”