Local group helps children in Liberty for the holidays

LIBERTY -Volunteers spent this week wrapping Christmas gifts for more than 80 children in grades kindergarten to fourth as part of the E.J. Blott Holiday Project, which was started more than 30 years ago by a third-grade teacher.

Volunteers gathered Thursday to wrap the gifts at Churchill United Methodist Church, where donated items were brought earlier this week.

Sharon Wathen, event coordinator and member of the church, said the original event was started by retired teacher Gretchen Reed who wanted to make sure local school children had coats, a toy or game and book for Christmas.

She said 83 children’s names were provided by teachers at E.J. Blott School indicating they would be in need of a toy or coat.

”When she was a teacher Gretchen wanted to make sure children had warm coats. It eventually led to not only giving coats to the children but toys, games and books,” Wathen said.

She said Reed received help over the years from local churches, organizations and businesses.

Reed wanted to see that each child had at least two or three gifts. Reed always made sure at least one gift was a book or educational toy since many children weren’t reading regularly because they had no books.

”We couldn’t continue doing this without help from the community. There are so many people who have helped,” Wathen said.

Sheri Griffith of Northside Hospital said she and 32 of her colleagues took part by donating items for the children.

She said sometimes there are special requests if a child needs boots.

Organizers said the effort helps those Liberty families who are struggling to get gifts this holiday season.

In November, trees were set up in businesses around the township. On the branches, they hung cards with numbers representing gifts for which children of E.J. Blott Elementary had asked. Community members and business owners plucked the cards from the tree and bought the gifts on the card and dropped them off at the church.

Wathen said the effort shows the generosity of the community members to help others at the holidays.

She said each year the volunteers and organizers are thrilled with the response and number of donations.

Trustee Jodi Stoyak was among those helping to wrap, and she said in recent years, between 60 and 100 children have been helped.

“This helps make sure each child has a happy holiday,” she said.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com