Christmas Just 4 Kids supports over 180 families

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).

Shepherd of the Hills’ Christmas Just 4 Kids supported 189 Clayton County families in 2023. Volunteers are pictured with some of the donated gifts.

The MFL MarMac wrestling team volunteered to help out with the Christmas for Kids event, hauling boxes and totes for the set-up effort. Pictured (left to right) are coach Chet Bachman, wrestlers Will Howes, Gavin Kishman, Holden Mathis, Kennedy Bachman, Rylan Schroeder and Keith Anderson and coach Brent Pape.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


As the new year gets underway, it’s a good time to reflect on some good that happened in 2023, especially with the holidays still relatively fresh in people’s minds. One of those good things, from December, was the continuation of a tradition that dates back to the early 1980s, when Shepherd of the Hills (SOTH) started its Christmas Just 4 Kids.


The event was borne out of then-director Elaine Peterson’s desire to make Christmas a special time of year for families in need, and the ambitious gesture hasn’t missed a Christmas season since.


At the helm of the event now is Heather Hageman, who has worked for SOTH for a little under two years. She also shares the desire to “give a little extra cheer to families that are struggling,” she said.


Hageman does a lot behind the scenes and around the community to prepare for the event, including gathering toys, reaching out for donations, lining up volunteers, scheduling days and times for shopping and set up and clean up.


“I also do a lot of shopping, which, for me, is a great time being as I love to shop,” Hageman said.


Hageman also looks for families in need who will benefit from Christmas Just 4 Kids. To do this, she relies on referring agencies such as WIC, veterans affairs, community action and others who have the ability to screen clients for need. Once a referral has been received, which usually occurs between mid-October and Dec. 1, the clients contact Hageman to set up a date and time to shop.


“Most of these agencies have income guidelines for their programs, so we are able to base the need off the concept that, if they qualify for their help, we are willing to help them as well,” Hageman explained.


Hageman secures toys through donations, churches, businesses and Toys for Tots. She buys whatever else is needed, usually items for specific age ranges, since most items are toys. The event serves every child from newborn all the way to 18, and sometimes gaps need to be filled.


In recent years, Toys for Tots has been the main support for Christmas for Kids, bringing in 2,000 to 2,500 toys per year. Churches and local businesses both “near and far,” along with toy drives, bring in the rest, Hageman said. 


Community involvement comes about through Hageman sending out letters asking for support. Those funds allow her to fill in those “gaps,” as well as buy pajamas that each child receives along with other items.


Hageman said some of those items are “pretty awesome gifts,” like fishing poles, bikes, ride-on toys, hand crafted items, big Lego sets, trains and gift cards. They go along with the “big gift” every child receives and a few smaller ones, like stocking stuffers, puzzles, games, blankets, books and pajamas.


“I am generally in awe of how much they contribute to the kids. Every bit helps when we are talking about a project this massive,” Hageman said.


The turnout this year was overwhelming. Through the “generosity of the community,” Christmas Just 4 Kids had over 5,000 gifts and helped 189 families from Clayton County and surrounding communities. 


The event, as Hageman put it, was “huge.” Unlike in recent years, when the pandemic required people to wait in line for pre-filled bags rather than getting into the church to shop, things were done a bit differently this holiday season.


“I prefer the parents to select the gifts, as they know the needs and wants of their children better than we do,” Hageman said.


This year, Hageman scheduled time slots for shopping, making the experience easier on families and eliminating long wait times. This time, four families shopped in their allotted 15-minute time slots, and the overall process was smooth.


“I know it seems like it would be a tough task, having four families shopping every 15 minutes for two days straight, but that is where my fantastic team of volunteers have stepped up,” said Hageman.


Among that group of volunteers was the MFL MarMac wrestling team, after coach Chet Bachman reached out to see how the team could help. During the conversation, Bachman said, “I got help coming,” and in no time, wrestlers descended on the church and hauled 15 tall boxes, 32 totes and a series of medium-sized boxes up the steep balcony stairs in a whopping 20 minutes.


“Coach Bachman likes to teach the concept of helping others and especially the community events. It builds character. His team also has helped with the back-to-dchool event we host in August. It’s a good thing they have muscles, as some of those boxes/totes were very heavy,” Hageman said.


Other volunteers were from the Shepherd of the Hills Conference, St. Paul Lutheran in Postville, St. Paul Lutheran in Maynard and the One in Faith Parish, who also helped carry items from the balcony and assisted with setting up some toys and pajamas. In all, the event had over 20 youth with chaperones who helped this year, along with others who made the event  successful.


“One thing that I think about on Christmas Day I was able to be a part of this huge event that will be putting smiles and excitement to these children. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you made a child’s Christmas a bit brighter,” Hageman said.


If anyone would like to volunteer, donate or do any fundraising for this event or any event hosted by Shepherd of the Hills, they are encouraged to reach out to Hageman.


“On behalf of Shepherd of the Hills and our clients we served… we thank everyone that helped make this event a success. We truly are in the best area with the best people,” Hageman said.

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (2 votes)