Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 20, 2012

Red Ribbon Christmas provides gifts, food for needy

by Megan Graham

— Early Thursday morning, the ground shuddered with thunder. The rain poured down in cold sheets. But as the rest of Kokomo slept, nearly 200 volunteers headed out into the black-skied early morning with boxes teeming with gifts and food for the unfortunate.

“On a rainy, cold December morning, I think that’s remarkable,” said Van Taylor, director of the Kokomo Rescue Mission, the organization that organizes Red Ribbon Christmas.

Kokomoans gathered at GM’s Tool Technology Center to enjoy coffee and donuts as they prepared to load up their cars with boxes for delivery. Over 1,000 families received the Red Ribbon Christmas boxes, which contain toys for children and enough food for three meals on Christmas Day.

Steve Fields and his young sons, dressed in their pajamas for “pajama day” at school, said they looked forward to delivering the gifts to families.

“It sounded fun,” Anthony Fields said.

Steve said he hoped the experience would be a lesson for his boys.

“I’m trying to teach them that there are people who are less fortunate,” he said. “I want them to see that. I used to be one of those guys. And this is my way of giving back.”

Volunteers faced one particular predicament: keeping the boxes dry in the pouring rain. With the wind whipping and heavy rain falling, this was no easy task. Volunteers inside the warehouse put boxes on conveyor belts to quickly roll them under a trap outside to a tent to be loaded in cars. Then, the boxes were on their way.

The event is an ongoing process through the year, according to Anna Brown, the organization’s coordinator of special events & volunteers. Gently used toys are collected year-round, and volunteers fix up the toys. She said the Rescue Mission also keeps a computer program to ensure that a child doesn’t receive the same gifts twice, or to remind volunteers to give children with developmental disabilities a fitting gift.

“A lot of love and care go into each box,” Brown said.

Taylor said the boxes aren’t just a way of giving less fortunate families material goods on Christmas.

“Every child loves a special gift. They look forward to it. And really, is it just the box? I would say no: it’s the expression of love,” Taylor said. “To know, no matter what your age, that somebody cares. Somebody thinks you’re important. Somebody thinks you matter. I think that gift is really love.”

Megan Graham is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. She can be reached by phone at 765-454-8570 or by email at megan.graham@kokomotribune.com.