Families find help at Senior Center

Thursday, December 24, 2009
Putnam County Senior Center Volunteer Jackie Young looks over a helicopter before placing it into one of the many bags of toys that are given out every year as part of the Center's Toys for Tots program.

It has been a tough year in Putnam County for many families.

Many of those people have found help at the Putnam County Senior Center through one of their many programs -- and the Toys for Tots program at the center have benefited many people over the years.

A group of volunteers has been bagging toys for as many families as they can. Occasionally when they run out of items, they purchase them out of their own pockets, even if it means they go without something themselves.

"Each parent can pick one bag per child and grandparents can get one bag total," said Senior Center volunteer Jackie Young. "There is no cost for the toys."

Items are collected at the senior center all year long and bags are prepared, stored and ready for distribution from the middle of November to the middle of December.

A small group of volunteers led by Young, who has been volunteering at the center since the 1970s, sorts the toys by age categories and prepares for the onslaught of families that come for help during the holidays.

Last year over 350 bags of toys were distributed to families. So far this year, Senior Center workers have prepared nearly as many bags and have some toys left to make more as they are needed.

"We haven't counted the numbers yet," said Young. "This is our last day to pass out the bags. You know a lot of people wait for the last minute so we hope we have what they need."

Toys are sorted by age and gender except for newborn items.

"We try to put a couple of books, a stuffed animal and a toy appropriate for either a boy or girl in each bag," Young said.

Young gets a tear in her eye when she recalls some of her experiences with families.

"Yesterday a man came in," she said. "He had three boys ages 8, 11 and 12. We don't have much for older boys. I handed him two bags from the age 8 and up rack and told him to come in and pick up some things he thought the boys would like.

"He did and before he left he hugged me and said 'God Bless you,' and I knew he meant it," she continued.

The Toys for Tots program is only one of many that the Senior Center and its volunteers provide.

They also deliver meals to people who need them, provide meals at the center, house a clothing and household items store, sponsor a senior health fair every year and provide clothing and items for "burn out" victims.

"We had a lady in here just recently," said Young. "Her sister lost her house in a fire. We gave her a comforter and she found some dishes, household items and clothes."

Young can tell stories about almost every program the center offers. She has been volunteering there for nearly four decades. Her youngest daughter also works at the center, along with numerous volunteers.

"What these people do is just incredible," said center director Kyle Hutcheson. "I am just amazed by them. They give so much."

Young figures she will be working at the center for the rest of her life.

"It's really my second home," she said. "I'm here all the time. I don't plan to ever stop working here."

Anyone who needs help or information about the Putnam County Senior Center and its programs can call 653-8606. They are located at 9 W. Franklin Street in downtown Greencastle.

The Putnam County Emergency Food Pantry is also housed at the center. The food pantry and clothing shop is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

They will be closed on today and on Christmas.

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