By Patti Danner
In a picture that now hangs in the GCDW newsroom, Santa Claus accepts a grateful hug from Maddi.
This year, the staff at the Greene County Daily World decided to do something a little different to celebrate the Christmas holiday than our usual Secret Santa gift exchange and pitch-in dinner.
We all (the six of us who chose to participate) voted to forego both events in exchange for the chance to experience the true spirit of Christmas by giving and not receiving.
But we did receive. We received the greatest gift imaginable, the gift of giving without regard to what we might get in return.
It’s impossible to accurately and fully describe how good it feels to do such a thing. The only way to know how it feels is to do so yourself and the family we helped, the Huff family of Linton, will always be our heroes for accepting the love we gathered for them.
We invited other local businesses to give themselves the same gift by following our lead. We have no way of knowing if any of them did, but one afternoon we were blessed with the perfect example.
One of us stopped in to Linton Sporting Goods in order to pick up a football for one of the kids, Drake.
In the course of the shopping trip, the project of adopting the family for Christmas was discussed and shortly after returning to the office, Lauren from Linton Sporting Goods contacted us to inquire whether they could donate a few things for the four kids in the Huff family.
Patti Jones, owner of Linton Sporting Goods, happily circled the store in search of merchandise, even creating a design on one hoodie for one of the girls when she couldn’t find something suitable in the right size.
“I don’t want any student in Linton to have to go to school on a Friday without a Miners shirt,” she said, smiling.
We knew “our” family wasn’t destitute, but just needed a little help making it through the holidays.
We put a list on the chalkboard in the newsroom, crossing off items as they were purchased. It was truly wonderful to see the wish lists of the Huff kids get shorter and shorter. One of our staff kept in touch with mom Sasha, making sure that nobody purchased duplicates and that specific items on the lists were correctly purchased.
We had secured the assistance of a volunteer Santa in advance, but part-time Santa had a full-time job and we couldn’t risk him getting called to work on the day we had arranged to deliver to the family, Dec. 22.
Luckily, we were rescued by a pair of truly remarkable Greene Countians, Judy and Buck Mullis, close friends of Santa and Mrs. Claus, who called the North Pole to secure the assistance of the Claus’s for the gift delivery.
Buck and Judy were selected as GCDW’s 2017 Difference Makers of the Year for their good deeds in Greene County, including but not limited to volunteering with 4-H, building the Veteran’s Memorial in Lyons, hosting an annual Veterans Day dinner and creating Sunday in the Park in Lyons. We could not have been blessed with a better pair of helpers for a million dollars.
The pair jumped right up to help us, asking for the names, ages and wishes of each child in order to personalize the visit with them. Santa and Mrs. Claus rode with them as they met two of our staff promptly at the agreed-upon time on the agreed-upon day. They even helped us load the gifts, taking the filled stockings with them in Santa’s bag.
We found the house and a staff member knocked on the door to be sure we had the right place.
We did, and Santa took the lead, knocking on the door to be greeted by four of the sweetest and most polite young Linton residents imaginable. We went back and forth, arms laden with wrapped gifts and a box containing a frozen turkey, stuffing, a tray of cookies and other items for the family. We arranged the gifts under the tree and stood feeling only slightly awkward, anxiety replaced by excitement at meeting the kids we felt like we had known for some time and utter joy at the knowledge that we had made a difference, however small, in their lives.
We saw a loving, stable family with a hardworking mom and dad and four priceless children who deserved to be offered a hand up in a time of need. We saw people who, by letting us offer that hand up and give them a merrier Christmas, gave us a gift we will all treasure forever. We saw two people who helped us as we helped the family without regard to themselves and their Saturday night.
We saw unconditional love, living examples of human kindness dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus and we saw better versions of ourselves reflected in the smiles of the whole family that night.
Thank you Sasha, Lexi, Drake, Audrey and Maddi. Thank you Buck and Judy Mullis. Thank you JD Rose and Tracy Keen. Thank you for making us the people who accomplished something beautiful in a sometimes-not beautiful world.
We can’t wait to do it again next year...