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WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2005
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Volunteer Center sponsoring Hope Chest, can-a-thons

By Bayne Hughes
DAILY Education Writer

hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

The Volunteer Center of Morgan County has two Christmas projects that have area schools donating a lot during the season of giving.

The Center's annual Can-a-thon is in its 14th year, while the Holiday Hope Chest is starting its fifth.

Volunteer Center Executive Director Mary K. Braddock said a Holiday Hope Chest is a wrapped shoebox with Christmas items for needy children based on age.

The center divides the ages into six groups: Infants (0-18 months), pre-school (2-4 years), school and pre-kindergarten (5-7), school age (8-11), pre-teen and early teen (12-14), and teen (15-17).

Shoeboxes

Braddock said the Hope Chest idea came from a program in New York City. Last year, about 50 area schools participated, along with numerous church and civic groups. More than 2,000 children received shoeboxes.

"They found that homeless children would carry everything they own in a shoebox," she said.

The Holiday Hope Chest allows even students who can't afford to contribute much to participate through bringing small items like crayons, pencils, markers, puzzles and arcade tokens. A list of items is available at the center.

As the Monday deadline for contributing items or boxes approaches, the Volunteer Center becomes almost like Santa's North Pole home.

Braddock divides the building at 708 Sixth Ave. S.E. into age groups. Volunteers wrap shoeboxes and divide the contributed items into the appropriate ages.

Braddock said the center then fulfills the requests of more than a dozen non-profit agencies that disperse the boxes.

Feeding the hungry

Braddock said about 45 Decatur, Hartselle and Morgan County schools are collecting canned foods as part of competition to see who can gather the most food.

Last year, Hartselle High School won with about 21,000 cans as the Volunteer Center collected about 110,000, Braddock said.

Each school class that collects at least 2,000 cans gets a pizza party. Most of the schools will turn in their canned goods Monday at Colonial Mall from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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