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Kindness abounds in Wood County

With all the negativity and division swirling around us, I am thankfully often reminded of the positive actions and kindness of people in Wood County.

For instance:

* Ashlen Martin, 14, of Vienna surpassed her goal of collecting 600 toys to give to foster children in Wood County for Christmas.

She has collected 615 toys and cash to purchase additional toys.

On Monday, Ashlen’s mother, Melissa Wise, will be collecting more toys for this toy drive from the Rising Stars youth group at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Mineral Wells. These children 4 to 11 years old undertake a community project every year, said Jessy Riffle, one of the group leaders.

Riffle, a third-grade teacher at Vienna Elementary School, said the Rising Stars children can relate to the excitement the foster children will experience on Christmas by receiving these toys.

Martin is an eighth-grade student at Jackson Middle School.

* Tuesday night’s Christmas Auction at the 19th Street Country Club in Parkersburg has raised $6,700 with more money still coming in to help families at Christmas through the Salvation Army.

Among the approximately 35 auction items were a Don Whitlatch painting of the West Virginia University Mountaineer that sold for $425, a WVU football helmet autographed by Pat White that sold for $325 and a diamond pendant that brought $325. Tavern owner Dave Wright once again served as auctioneer at the holiday fundraiser.

“We appreciate the donations that help the kids,” said Larry Branham, who assists with the auction. Area residents and businesses donate the auction items and prizes that are given away.

“It’s a good time… good fellowship,” Branham said. “A lot of laughter and banter at the auction.”

“People are generous in the bidding,” Wright said. About 45 people attended the auction.

Proceeds from the auction will be used to buy food for families at Christmas through the Salvation Army in Parkersburg, said Maj. Patrick Richmond. The local Salvation Army provides food to 1,100 families in six counties at Christmas.

* A total of 465 children in 211 Wood County families will receive Christmas presents through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program this year. The gifts are provided by local residents and will be distributed to the children’s parents or caregivers at the Salvation Army in Parkersburg next week. The presents are wrapped for placement under the families’ Christmas trees.

* Donations have been increasing at the 139 collection boxes for Christmas toys in Wood and Washington counties stores for the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.

A trend this year has been for companies to bring new and unwrapped toys to the collection boxes, said Cliff Hecker, program coordinator. “We have been getting a great response from people,” Hecker said of the toy drive.

The collection boxes will remain at stores through Dec. 20 and a toy and money collection site will be established from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 20 at the former Ralph’s Market site on Pike Street for Toys for Tots.

Hecker expects 30,000 Christmas toys, along with wrapping paper, to be given to families on Dec. 21 at Grace Gospel Church in Parkersburg. Monetary donations will be used to buy toys for children 11-13 years old and 6 months to 2.5 years old who generally don’t receive as many toys in the collection boxes.

* Jon Six of Parkersburg led a drive that recently obtained nearly 800 dog blankets for animal shelters in Parkersburg, Marietta and surrounding counties, with each shelter receiving 100 blankets. Six thanks those who supported this effort, which had a goal of obtaining 700 blankets.

* Jessy Towner, director of House to Home, appreciates the food, blankets, supplies and other items local residents, churches and organizations bring to the daytime homeless shelter at 413 Eighth St. in Parkersburg.

But House to Home can use more — especially during the cold weather months, Towner said. The shelter needs socks, hats, gloves, scarves, coats, thermal underwear and HotHands hand warmers to give to those who spend their nights outdoors.

This is a rough time of year for the homeless and their numbers are increasing, Towner said.

House to Home is opening from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, along with normal weekday hours, and will soon be open an extra hour until 4 p.m. on weekdays when the colder weather arrives.

The homeless shelter is seeing 60-80 people a day and is serving around 100 people for lunch on Fridays, Towner said. Donations of plates, cups, sugar and coffee are always needed, she said.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com

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