Here are ways to make Ozark County children’s Christmas merry and bright

With money from the Ozark County Sheriff’s Community Fund, sheriff’s department volunteers Rachel Phelan, Gavin Phelan and Sheila Dilts shopped for gifts on 2018 Angel Tree ornaments that weren’t claimed, so that all children who shared wish lists got presents. When this photo was taken last year, sheriff’s office personnel were preparing to load the gifts into vehicles for delivery to the distribution office. From left: administrative assistant Curtis Ledbetter, Chief Deputy Winston Collins, Sheriff Darrin Reed and Jailer (now Deputy) Jeff Lane. Times file photo / Sue Ann Jones

Each year, generous Ozark Countians help make Christmas bright for children in foster care or in families whose budgets have little or no room for Christmas gifts and surprises. Here are ways you can help:


Ozark County Angel Tree  

Each year the Ozark County Angel Tree project works to bring Christmas gifts to children who may not otherwise receive any. Area businesses set up trees or other holiday displays featuring ornaments with children’s Christmas wishes listed, and area residents are encouraged to “adopt” a local child for Christmas by selecting an ornament and purchasing the requested gifts. Each ornament lists the child’s gender, age, size and items the child most wants and needs. Gift-givers purchase as many of the requested items as they like then return the wrapped gifts to the business. 

If any ornaments are left over, Sheriff Darrin Reed and his staff use money that residents have donated to the Sheriff’s Community Fund to buy presents so no child is left out. (See more information, below.)

Last year, Angel Tree gifts were provided to more than 150 local children.

Businesses, churches and other organizations willing to host Angel Trees are needed. Participating businesses can decide how many ornaments to display. In the past, requests have ranged from four to 45 ornaments, organizers said. The Angel Tree project will provide a letter with the organization details, a master list of ornaments, an extra copy of the ornament labels and a bundle of ornaments ready for display. Businesses are responsible for keeping track of who adopted the ornaments and ensuring that the presents are returned to their business by the deadline. 

The Angel Trees are expected to be set up in area businesses by Nov. 18-19, co-organizer Shannon Martin said Monday. Gifts must be returned by Dec. 18 so organizers can collect and distribute them to families on Dec. 20.

Families who wish to be recipients of Angel Tree gifts are required to complete an application for each school-age child they want to be “adopted.” The Ozark County Angel Tree project is only available to parents, grandparents serving as parents and foster parents. Each family must have a working telephone or a message telephone number so they can be notified if their gifts are ready early, if there are weather complications on the pickup date or if there are questions about what the child wants or needs. These applications are due Friday, Nov. 15.

To fill out an application, or to host an Angel Tree, contact Sherril Thompson between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 417-284-3903 or call Shannon Martin at 620-440-1317 after 5 p.m.


Ozark County Sheriff’s Community Fund

Ozark County Sheriff Darrin Reed and his staff and volunteers help fulfill leftover Angel Tree wish-list “ornaments” that are not “adopted.” This program depends on donations. To contribute to the fund, make checks payable to Ozark County Sheriff’s Community Fund and either bring them to the sheriff’s office on County Road 806 on the west side of Gainesville, or mail donations to the fund at 1818 County Road 806, Gainesville, MO 65655.


DOW Foster Children’s Christmas Party

The 44th Circuit Children’s Division asks residents of Douglas, Ozark and Wright counties to help with its annual Christmas party for foster children in these counties. The party is hosted by the Children’s Division with the support of Helping Hands, an Ozark County faith-based group of individuals and churches that supports the Children’s Division in helping to meet the needs of local foster children and families in need. Faith Meets Foster, a Douglas- and Wright-county faith-based group, also supports the Children’s Division’s work with foster children in the 44th Circuit. 

Residents can sponsor a foster child at the party with a $50 donation, but cash gifts of all amounts are welcome. Residents can also shop for a foster child themselves by requesting a wish list from a party organizer.

Financial donations are used to provide all children with an oversized duffel bag to carry their belongings in, pajamas, a gift from their wish list and door prizes. 

Make checks payable to Ava Assembly of God - Foster Care Party and mail to PO Box 1240, Ava, MO 65608. For more information, to volunteer or to request a wish list, contact Stacey Garrison at 417-683-8706.


Ozark County Toy Drive

For decades, the Ozark County Toy Drive has distributed toys, gifts, treats and simple clothing items to parents to be given to their children for Christmas. Chairperson Nancy Walker says the only requirements are that the parents need to show that they live Ozark County and they must be willing to stand in line, usually beginning around 6 a.m. on the designated day, which is Dec. 14 this year. The one-day event is held at the old senior citizens building on Third Street across from the First Baptist Church.

Admission into the toy drive is by number, with doors opening at 9 a.m. The numbers will be handed out by a volunteer beginning around 7 a.m. Saturday. At that time, the church will be open to offer parents coffee, hot chocolate and restrooms. Walker says parents are not allowed to wait in line overnight. 

Most years, gifts are distributed for more than 400 children during the toy drive. A small army of volunteers works hard to make that generosity possible. It’s a huge operation, one that depends completely on volunteer efforts and cash donations. 

To help, make checks payable to Ozark County Toy Drive and mail to Nancy Walker, 378 Harlin Dr., Gainesville, MO 65655.

Ozark County Times

504 Third Steet
PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423