Heritage Lake provides ample Christmas spirit

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

COATESVILLE -- While an abundance of Christmas spirit flows throughout Putnam County, a new effort among the Heritage Lake citizenry is ensuring that residents in and around the lake community will have a very merry Christmas.

Reserve Deputy Ken Rozelle, along with partners Cindy Huddleston and Bev Hoops, have taken it upon themselves to start a new program called Touching Hearts -- essentially a plan of action to provide those less-fortunate with gifts for the holiday season.

Thanks to this small group and its efforts, more than 60 kids will be receiving presents at Christmas this year.

Rozelle, who is also a Heritage Lake property manager, said the trio began sending emails to residents of Heritage Lake after Thanksgiving. However, due to a slow response, Rozelle and his group decided to start advertising around the lake itself in the form of billboards and road side signs.

"When we sent out an email, we didn't get much of a response back and I wasn't sure why," Rozelle said during an interview with the Banner Graphic. "I kept telling (Huddleston and Hoops) that 'I think we're missing the boat somewhere.'

"We were 'missing the boat' because I think the people in need didn't have direct access to email and things like that," Rozelle continued. "So we posted around the lake and from that point we really started getting a lot of feedback."

Rozelle said they gave residents a wish-list, sending it to the families to fill out and return. The wish-lists identified the children's ages, their clothing sizes and even included a section for them to write in items they wanted.

Children's ages ranged from four month-old all the way to age 18.

Sponsors were asked to donate approximately $75 per child (in some cases much more than necessary was given). This, Rozelle said, proved crucial to the process.

"If it weren't for the sponsors, we wouldn't have been able to do this."

Once the orders were filled, parents were given the option of picking up the items or receiving them via delivery from the Floyd Township Fire Department or the Putnam County Sheriff's Department -- the idea being that the gifts would be perceived to come from the parents, not sponsors.

"We wanted the kids to feel like these gifts came from their parents," Rozelle said, going on to cite an example. "One of the family members I delivered (the packages) to ... the mother said their family had been in need but that they were full of love and, if they didn't have anything, they were OK.

"But when she saw the billboard sign -- that Heritage Lake is assisting families in need -- she said 'Thank God for a miracle.'"

Rozelle, Huddleston and Hoops intend to expand on this idea and make it an annual tradition. Using the inaugural donation as a guide, Rozelle hopes to begin advertising the program much sooner than Thanksgiving in 2016.

Rozelle also spoke about the group's experience throughout the process, saying that the families weren't the only people receiving Christmas spirit this season.

"If there's ever been a soft place in my heart, it's for Christmas time," Rozelle said. "It really made the whole event worthwhile.

"We want to expand on this for next year, and we want people to know that people at Heritage Lake are touching hearts out there."

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