Holmes County Share-A-Christmas delivers on a promise

Holmes County Share-A-Christmas delivers on a promise

More than three decades ago, four Holmes families decided to bless eight families in the community by presenting them with gifts galore.

Selflessly, Holmes County Share-A-Christmas was born.

Those four families — Mike and Cindy Taylor, Bill Baker, John and Deb Thern, and Sam and Ronda Steimel — built a relationship with the Holmes County Department of Human Services to designate families that would be good recipients.

The process of collecting toys, food, household products and special gifts for local families has since grown in proportion, but the reason for giving has never wavered from that first year when it was all about helping others.

“We did eight families, and the next year Bill said, ‘Why don’t we do 100 families,’” Mike Taylor said. “He always was the visionary, and now we have this beautiful Baker Building at the fairgrounds that we can utilize all year round.”

Two years later that number stood at 100 families, and it has grown ever since. When WKLM Radio joined the game in 1991 and created the phone-a-thon, Share-A-Christmas grew to more than 300 families. Since then the organization has helped provide Christmas cheer for thousands of area families each Christmas season.

The organization took root and for years took place at the old Holmes County Fairgrounds on the west edge of Millersburg. After facing flooding issues for far too many years, SAC eventually found a new and much-improved home at Harvest Ridge.

Over the years Taylor has had the joy of organizing and also delivering to families, and it is a very fulfilling process from start to finish.

“It brings us all hope and joy,” Taylor said. “We have such a great group of volunteers who make this happen, and what the people of Holmes County take on, we seem to make it great. It’s heartwarming for those who were there in the beginning to see that so many people have carried the torch.”

Taylor said the project works like it’s supposed to because it benefits more families when the economy struggles and numbers fall when things are good. The past couple of years have seen lower numbers of families, which is a good thing.

This year’s big day, known as D-Day or Delivery Day, saw around 180 families finding a knock on their door as SAC drivers brought them loads of Christmas joy.

Steph Ditmars has been instrumental in many facets of Holmes County Share-A-Christmas. She said while there have been many blessings throughout the years, one thing stands out in her mind as showcasing the value of what SAC promotes.

“I think what makes the biggest difference for me is when people who have received a blessing from Share-A-Christmas in the past come back and help,” Ditmars said. “That means they are appreciative and they want to give back when they are able. They recognize the value and importance of what we are doing. It means a lot to me when someone tells me they received Share-A-Christmas and now want to give back. That is so touching.”

Greg Chaney is one of those people. Several years ago he was one of those struggling with complications in life, and he felt the overwhelming joy of seeing others showing compassion toward him and his family.

“It’s unbelievable the way people in Holmes County give,” he said. “Having been on the receiving end, it makes me feel good that I’m now in a place where I can help out. It’s a wonderful group of people, and I’m proud to be a part of the organization.”

Then there are the children who await Delivery Day with great anticipation. When the SAC delivery crew comes knocking on their door, the emotions run from the glee of a child’s face who has just received a monumental gift to teary eyes of gratitude from parents who recognize the commitment and compassion that comes with each visit.

Tom Leppla and his daughter Kylee were one of many drivers delivering SAC goods on Delivery Day. He said he initially got into it because of his children. He wanted them to gain some understanding that there are local families who are struggling and it is vital people reach out to help them wherever possible.

“It’s a good experience for all of us, but it’s important that we pass this along to our future leaders,” Leppla said.

He said not only does he look forward to spending quality time with his children, but also they love the joy they bring to others, especially to the children.

Not only is delivering for SAC great for couples and families, but also it can be a wonderful company experience.

Deke Miller, owner of Village Motors, had two volunteer crews making deliveries in two of his company’s large parts vans, which could deliver to three homes on one trip. He said Village Motors has made Delivery Day a priority for years, and he loves seeing his employees take an active role in giving back to the community.

“This is a huge thing for our county,” Miller said. “Christmas is important to our family and to all families, and we want to make sure it is something special, especially for these kids. When you make a delivery and see these kids bouncing off the walls with excitement and the smiles on their faces, it makes it worthwhile. It is amazing to see this community pour itself into this with such passion.”

And once the presents are gone, that means the end of another successful SAC season of giving.

“It’s always a sense of relief, and to be honest, it’s a little sad because it’s the end of something we’ve poured ourselves into for the past many weeks,” Ditmars said. “But we know it is a job well done, and we couldn’t do it without all of the help of organizers and volunteers. It might seem weird, but I always get a little sentimental over all of it when we’re done each year. Since before Thanksgiving it has been our life. I know it’s because of how much passion and compassion everyone shows in bringing it all together.”