December 2006 Issue
Sense of Community
The spirit of giving has had a long tradition in Brownhelm Township, starting during the Great Depression, when the western Lorain County community began lending a helping hand during the holiday season to those less fortunate. Now, 75 years later and thanks to the group of hard-working people comprising the Brownhelm Community Christmas celebration, that generosity is offered to everyone.
On Christmas Eve, Community Christmas volunteers will visit 820 homes, delivering packages ofholiday gifts to township residents. The gift packages -- funded through donations -- include toys for children and fruit and candy baskets. Ingredients for Christmas dinner are also given to those in need.
Seventy volunteers participate each year, including the route chairmen in charge of delivering letters to each home a few weeks before Christmas asking residents if they would like a visit from St. Nick. (Most of the routes have 40 to 60 stops, and take 90 minutes to two hours to complete.) Other volunteers help assemble the gift packages on December 23 and act as drivers; since each route has its own Santa to hand-deliver the gifts, 16 are needed to play the part.
"Without these people, this would be impossible because it has grown so much," says Sylvia Hugo, who's been a part of the Community Christmas festivities since 1971 and president for six years. "When I first started, there were less than 400 houses."
The routes originate at the Brownhelm United Church of Christ. It was there where the first Community Christmas began in 1931, when a young girl told the church's minister, Rev. Ralph Albright, that Santa wouldn't be visiting her house that year. The community banded together to make sure all the children received gifts. The idea was expanded the following year to help the elderly.
"Today, we're helping a lot of different people," Hugo says. "We have, in some cases, second and third generations who remember when Santa was at their house when they were children."