The following story is from the Iron County Today, written by Ashley Langston, Managing Editor:
IRON COUNTY – The Iron County Care and Share's Holiday Assistance program distributed gifts to families last week and served about 40 percent more children than last year.
Pam Branin, Holiday Assistance coordinator, said they helped provide Christmas gifts for 1,041 kids, and they also tried a different method of distributing the gifts this year, which seemed to be a success.
In past years the program has put together a bag of gift for families based on the information on their application. This year they set out all the items on tables in the Iron County Fairgrounds building and parents had a set time to come "shop" for their children. They were able to choose what would items would suit their children best, she said.
A shuttle was provided to Parowan on Wednesday afternoon, and those who were unable to get to Parowan any other way were scheduled during that time so they could ride the shuttle, Branin said.
She said the only negative feedback from people living around Cedar City was the drive to Parowan, but she heard many positive comments about the opportunity to choose.
"The feedback from families was very positive," she said.
She said parents who the program served filled out comment cards, and they would be going through them to try to improve the process in the future.
Branin said they will be looking for a location in Cedar City next year, but since the occupy the space for about a week and a half, it was difficult to find somewhere this year.
Jet Smith, who has coordinated Parowan's Sub for Santa program for years, said Parowan has been running its program out of the fairgrounds building for years, but has also tried to fill a family's wish list and distributed the items. She also felt the "shopping" method worked well and they will likely continue to use it in the future.
"It was kind of fun to let them shop," she said.
Though they combined this year, Parowan's Sub for Santa program is separate from Holiday Assistance. They have served residents of Parowan, Paragonah, Summit, Brian Head and some of Enoch, she said.
Holiday Assistance runs a central database that keeps track of families receiving assistance so people are not getting served by multiple programs, Branin said. Sub for Santa and Holiday Assistance coordinate on that so they are not helping the same people, Smith said.
She said the whole effort would not have been possible without the many dedicated volunteers who spend months working on it. They also spent days setting up in the building and then worked to help clients Dec. 13 through Saturday.
Branin said they are also very appreciative of the many people throughout the community who donated. There were angel trees at Southern Utah University, the Enoch City Offices, the Cedar City Offices, Walmart, Smead, Valley View Medical Center, and a couple of dental offices. People would take an ornament off the tree and fill that need, she said.
"We have a great community," she said.
Providing toys for the huge increase of children would not have been possible though without Toys for Tots and the local Marine Corps League detachment. Toys for Tots gave to families on its own, but also donated a large number of gifts to Holiday Assistance.
"They were amazing," Branin said.