Angie and Chris Newman shop at Wal-Mart for one of the families the Columbia County Sheriff's Office is sponsoring for Christmas.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Columbia County sheriff's Investigator Nash Garrett stood in front of a rack of toys Tuesday inside the Evans Wal-Mart and contemplated purchasing either a pink or lavender stuffed pony for a 5-year-old girl.
Though Garrett has a 3-year-old daughter himself, the choice was difficult. But after picking up the pink pony, Garrett headed for the educational toys.
"They can share this," Garrett said excitedly after discovering a Leapfrog learning pad for the little girl and her twin brother.
The twins are two of 30 children sponsored by Columbia County employees through their departments as part of the county's Employees for Excellence committee's Adopt-A-Family Christmas program. The families applied to the Columbia County Foundation for Children Christmas program, which is chaired by Linda Hammond.
Sheriff's office and Columbia County courts employees meticulously followed needs and wish lists, putting together outfits and picking out toys Tuesday as they shopped for their sponsored families.
"That is what makes it for me, seeing someone get so involved with it,'' Hammond said. "You can tell they enjoy doing it."
Sponsoring schools, clubs, county departments and others will be spending between $150 and $200 on each of the more than 450 children in 160 families through the foundation this holiday season.
Shelley Lewis (left), a Magistrate Court worker, and Kari Poss, a juvenile court employee, shop in Evans for the families that their departments are sponsoring for Christmas. The Adopt-A-Family Christmas program is sponsoring 30 children this year.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The sheriff's office alone raised $2,500, including a $2,000 check from the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans.
All county departments raised just more than $5,600 through employee donations and fund-raisers, including several bake sales.
"We want to spend all that money and make sure (the children) get everything they ask for," said Lindsey Merzlak, this year's Employees for Excellence Adopt-A-Family program organizer.
In 2003, the committee sponsored 37 children, said Chris Newman, 2003's program organizer.
"That is awesome," he said before heading out to shop for two teenagers on his list Tuesday. "It'll be fun. We'll get them (taken care of)."
The committee sponsored eight families in 2003 and seven families this year, including one with six children and another with nine being raised by their grandmother.
Kari Poss, a juvenile court employee who has 6-year-old and 1-year-old sons, joined up with her shopping partner Shelley Lewis, of Magistrate court, who spent the morning shopping for a 4-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl.
"I couldn't imagine my kids not having Christmas," Poss said.
Hammond said helping provide Christmas for some of the county's needy children helps out their whole family.
"People don't realize that if you help give them a little assistance during Christmas, it might help them over those January bills that would put them further into debt," Hammond said.
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