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As the holiday season approaches, A Community Christmas is working tirelessly to bring Christmas joy to local people in need.
A Community Christmas of Stark County, Inc. (ACC) ensures local individuals and families facing challenging times receive food, toys, clothing and more during the holidays.
“It started with a couple of ladies in a church who heard of a few families who needed help,” shared Susan Hill, president of ACC, who has been volunteering with the all-volunteer nonprofit for 14 years. “A Community Christmas evolved from that into what it is today.”
Over the last 65 years, ACC has served as a beacon of hope for some of Stark County’s most deserving residents through its four core programs: Adopt-A-Family, Christmas Giving Center, Senior/Disabled Adults and Mitten Tree. These initiatives collectively assist families in our community who may lack the resources to create a special holiday season for their loved ones.
Local individuals and families in need apply for support through ACC’s programs.
A devoted team of volunteers reviews these applications, and, with the help of Catholic Charities, they are cross-checked with multiple agencies to prevent duplication of assistance in our community. From there, volunteers assess and assign each individual or family to one of the four available programs. Thanks to the dedication of over 500 volunteers, more than 2,500 people experienced a brighter holiday season last year through ACC’s programs.
Adopt-A-Family is a heartwarming program where a mix of sponsors (individuals, families, churches, organizations and businesses) support families who have fallen on tough times by purchasing gifts, clothing and essential items. It's a thoughtful way to spread the spirit of giving, ensuring every family can experience the joy of Christmas.
ACC’s volunteer team intentionally matches sponsors with families in need and provides a list of suggested items, ranging from clothing and toys to cleaning supplies and bedding.
The program thrives on the support of the local community. In 2022, 209 local families were adopted, thanks to generous sponsors like Aultman Hospital and Faith United Methodist Church— whose teams sponsored multiple families.
Another local organization playing an integral role in the Adopt-A-Family program is Dominion Energy. For more than 30 years, employees from Dominion Energy have not only adopted families but also led the annual distribution event at the Southeast Community Center in Canton.
Tracy Stevens, external affairs manager at Dominion Energy, shared, “Our partnership with A Community Christmas is incredibly important to us. It's our employees' favorite event of the year.”
Every December, sponsors drop off wrapped gifts at the Southeast Community Center, and the next day, families pick them up. Dominion Energy employees volunteer on both days and spend those days working with sponsors and clients and packing cars with Christmas cheer.
Tracy added, “We even tackle the occasional engineering challenge, like fitting 12 boxes and two bicycles into one car.”
The families that benefit from our community’s generosity often express their gratitude through handwritten thank-you notes. One family summed it up by saying,
“I just want to thank you for what you did for my family. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have been able to give my family a Christmas.”
For families not in the Adopt-A-Family program, ACC offers meaningful support through its Christmas Giving Center. Using suggestions from the clients’ application, clients come to an annual two-day event at the Stark County Fairgrounds to pick up their pre-bagged gifts. These gifts include books, toys provided by Marines Toys for Tots for children 12 and under, gift cards for teens, food vouchers for families, clothing, hats, mittens, paper products, toiletries and cleaning supplies.
“What sets A Community Christmas apart is our support for teenagers,” shared Susan. “We provide Walmart gift cards so they can get something they truly want.”
Last year, the Christmas Giving Center assisted 344 families, encompassing 620 children, 281 teenagers and 433 adults. Among them was a grandmother with permanent custody of her grandchildren who expressed, “I'm in awe of what you do.”
ACC's commitment goes beyond gifts. In 2022, over 300 local seniors and disabled adults received food vouchers from Fishers Foods to purchase a holiday meal. Notably, this program experienced a 26% increase from the previous year, guaranteeing that families in need can enjoy a comforting holiday feast.
One grateful senior citizen expressed, “Thanks to you, I could afford the food for my Christmas dinner.”
Every winter, hats, gloves and scarves are collected and distributed to neighbors in need, extending the warmth of our caring community. Last year, over 5,700 items were collected from 25 local churches, businesses, libraries and numerous individuals.
ACC's future plans focus on increasing program promotion, enhancing digital communication and developing a comprehensive donor database to streamline communication and mailing processes.
“This work has been very close to my heart for a very long time, and it does a whole lot of good,” said Susan. “We’re happy with our impact and longevity in the community. I am so grateful to be a part of such a great organization with such dedicated volunteers and board members that have been bringing Christmas joy to Stark County since 1959.”
Note: The deadline to adopt a family for this holiday season was November 14.
Learn more at acommunitychristmas.org