The below-freezing wind bit at slivers of exposed skin as people walked into the glow the garage door of a General Motors warehouse emitted in the pre-dawn dark.
A few hundred people amassed inside, where they warmed themselves up with a couple of Christmas carols and a prayer from people speaking to them from a ladder.
Surrounding the crowd were several hundred cardboard boxes, some of which were overflowing with doll houses, toy trucks and other gifts for children who otherwise would not have received presents.
About 600 boxes shipped out of a General Motors Components Holdings LLC warehouse Wednesday morning, and 400 left a few days earlier.
The Kokomo Rescue Mission took gifts to 1,060 families in its six-county area, including Howard County, as part of its Red Ribbon Christmas Outreach.
The number of families was down about 100 from last year, said Bebe Dorris, director of development for the Rescue Mission.
It was about a 50-50 split between new families and returning ones this year, she said.
The number of volunteers was also down slightly, she said.
But they were able to ship out hundreds of boxes in less than one hour.
Volunteers spent the morning pushing boxes from the warehouse outside, where people loaded pickup trucks and minivans with deliveries.
“We’re too busy. We just don’t realize it’s cold,” volunteer Kevin Knaus said, with a burst of scoffing and “yeah rights” from a few of his neighbors.
Just inside the building’s garage door, volunteer Steve Woodall was coordinating boxes that he and other volunteers were lining up and shoving along tracks to the vehicles at the bottom of a ramp.
Woodall said he and his family members have helped during the outreach for more than 20 years after someone from the Rescue Mission recruited him.
“We always say a box isn’t completely done until we’ve moved it five times,” he said as he stretched up after shoving a load of presents.
Dorris said longtime volunteers, like Woodall, have helped the event become more efficient as it has evolved over the decades.
“It’s just amazing when you get all these people together, the way they come up with ideas to make things better,” she said.
Driver Mike Coombs said this was his fifth or sixth year volunteering during the Red Ribbon Christmas Outreach.
“I’ve got a truck and I can lift, so I figured why not,” he said as others loaded his pickup’s bed. “... It’s a good cause. There’s a lot of disadvantaged people in Kokomo.”
Kelly Werdal, who organizes the Red Ribbon Christmas Outreach, said most of the year-round volunteers would take off a few weeks after Christmas, then begin planning for next year’s event in early January. But one volunteer, she added, goes shopping Dec. 26 to take advantage of the sales.
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.