26th Annual Santa Tree Project Provides Gifts for 1,400 Children

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On Friday morning, Robin Webb, of Athens County Children Services, weaved her way into a room filled with green and red plastic bags.

All 400 of them, some stacked nearly as high as the ceiling, awaited pick-up from area families in need.

The Santa Tree project, now in its 26th year, is coordinated by the Athens County Children Services, but is entirely funded by the community, states Webb, the agency's spokeswoman.

For the seven-week-long project, Webb hung paper ornaments around the county with each ornament listing the name of an eligible child, his or her age and a suggested gift idea. Community members, businesses, local schools and others participated by selecting a child and the purchasing and wrapping the gift.

“(The community) rose to the challenge once again this year,” Webb said.

Many of the families that receive gifts through the program also receive services from the agency.

Those who aren’t involved with the agency are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

“We are truly overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of our community,” Webb added.

“From businesses and organizations that held toy drives, to individuals taking names from the Santa Tree at the Market on State, and families and individuals making cash contributions, we have been able to make sure every child who signed up through our agency will have gifts to open this holiday season.”