The office is decorated with a large Christmas tree,paper garland adorns the walls of the meeting room and colorful wrapping paper encases the doors to the offices here at United Way of Jasper County. The tables in the meeting room have been covered with donated toys. Hats, gloves and scarves decorate the tree. An abundance of personal care products nestled underneath the faux pine. It is truly Christmas time at United Way of Jasper County.
During the holidays the call for need increases at UWJC. To help combat the stress of the season United Way works closely with agencies and organizations that have holiday assistance programs. We actively help promote adoption of children from Salvation Army and St. Nick's Christmas Club. We help organize the Newton Police Association and Newton Police Department's Shop With Cops program that provides outreach and positive interactions with the police in the community. The United Way also does an annual drive for mittens, gloves, hats, scarves and for 2017 expanded the efforts to include personal items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, body wash, deodorant and more.
Yesterday evening I had a woman come to UWJC to get some help with Christmas. I loaded the woman up on rolls of donated wrapping paper, a football, used books, pencils, crayons, construction paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, Play Doh, hats, gloves, sweatshirts and Hot Wheels toys that had all been donated. The woman shared how she and her husband were raising their grandchildren following the death of her son, their father. Changes at her husband's job meant less money for the family and things were tight. The burden of presents for children was straining the family's finances. She was happy with anything and everything I put into sacks for her. "The pencils can be a stocking stuffer." "I can wrap up these books, the boys won't mind that they are used." She was appreciative of everything.
Life happens with uncertainty and knowing the United Way was able to help a family in need for the holidays just reminds me of why we do what we do. As we loaded up the back of her van the woman wiped away tears and asked if she could hug me. I accepted on behalf of each and every person who has donated to UWJC this year to help make life better for this family and thousands more in Jasper County.
I hope that this holiday season finds you with family and friends and enjoying the reason for the season. And if I should get pencils in my stocking this year I will be thankful knowing that sometimes the simplest of gifts are truly the greatest and most heartfelt.
Executive Director Jessica Lowe has been with United Way of Jasper County since 2014. Prior to her time with the UWJC, Lowe was an award-winning journalist and a marketing director for a non-profit.