The program, which has raised an average of $10,000 per year to buy presents for area kids who might not receive much for Christmas, is well on its way to that number again this year. More than $6,500 in goods and cash has already been donated by residents of Floyd County, and local police officers have already gone on their first round of gift-buying for the children.
Area children are selected to participate according to need through area schools each year and attend a lunch and gift exchange at the Mountain Arts Center. The program at the center is followed by a trip to Prestonsburg Wal-Mart with local police officers and firefighters for the shop with a cop portion of the program. The event takes place Dec. 17 and usually draws around 200-to-300 people who come to participate.
Prestonsburg Mayor Jerry Fannin said the program has grown over the years and has helped more and more people, which is what is important to him during this time of year.
“I would encourage everyone to get involved in some way," Fannin said. "It’s what the world should be about, helping others.”
Numerous people have been involved in this year's program, from local children holding an indoor garage sale at the Prestonsburg Police Department for the past few weeks to raise money for the program, to local police officers purchasing gifts for children, to the Prestonsburg High School cheerleading squad getting together to wrap presents for the children. Many of the girls echoed similar sentiments about how they were just happy to help out in anyway they could during the holiday season, to help bring joy to area children who may not be as fortunate as them.
“This lets children have a smile on their face when they might not normally be able to smile,” said Nakeesha Maines, a junior at Prestonsburg High School.
Steve Little, the program's founder, said the main goal is just to make sure everyone enjoys a special Christmas, which he believes everyone deserves. He said the greatest part of the program is seeing the faces of the children light up when they attend the luncheon and gift exchange at the Mountain Arts Center.
“I don’t care how big a man you are, it will bring a tear to your eye to see the look on their faces,” Little said.
Prestonsburg Assistant Police Chief Brian Hall, who has also been involved with the program the last few years, reiterated what Little said of the program by saying that being able to do this type of work is what makes being a police officer so special to him.
“It’s what Christmas is all about. This is how people take care of other people.”