FOLLANSBEE - For a weekend in October, Follansbee Park is decorated with bows, ornaments and lights and a disc jockey plays an assortment of Christmas music, reminding visitors of the holiday season ahead.
But the most important element of Christmas it embraces is its spirit of giving, as proceeds from the yearly event go to local groups and a local youth in need.
At Monday's Follansbee Council meeting, festival co-chairs 5th Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro and Bill Secrist led the group's volunteer committee in handing out three $2,000 checks to three local causes:
EARLY CHRISTMAS — Organizers of Follansbee Christmas in the Park divided $6,000 raised by the festival among three local causes — the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program food pantry, the Anderson Children’s Home and the family of Paul Huff Jr., a local boy battling leukemia. On hand for the presentation at Monday’s Follansbee Council meeting were, front, Mary Ruth Morris, director of the Anderson Children’s Home; middle, from left, committee member Dave Secrist; Bill Secrist, the festival’s co-chairman; committee members Mildred “Wootsie” DeSantis and Nina Meca; Sharon McCauley of the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program; Councilwoman Kathy Santoro, the festival’s co-chairman; and Theresa Habbitt, Huff’s grandmother; and back, committee members Stacy Williams and Tom DiBattista, who also is a councilman.
The Anderson Children's Home, which under the direction of Mary Ruth Morris, has been home to many children and adults with severe mental and physical handicaps.
The Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program, a volunteer-run food pantry that provides food throughout the year to many local families in need.
The family of Paul Huff Jr., a sixth-grader at Follansbee Middle School who is undergoing treatment for leukemia at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Because of his condition, Huff wasn't able to attend, so the check was accepted by his grandmother Theresa Habbit, with whom he lives.
Santoro said it has been a tough year for Huff's family, as the 11-year-old was diagnosed with the disease shortly after his grandfather, Earl, was killed in an auto accident on state Route 2 on Dec. 29.
Each year the Follansbee Christmas in the Park Committee seeks out a local youth with special needs. The children's home and food pantry are among nonprofit groups that have been aided by the festival in the past.
Santoro noted the amount was the most the group has been able to award since the festival was begun 10 years ago.
She credited warm, sunny weather on both days, the involvement of its vendors, volunteers and city crews involved with preparation and cleanup efforts and the support of the visitors who purchased chances for drawings.
Mayor David Velegol Jr. praised the committee for "the fabulous job they did" in organizing the festival, which also offers many churches and other nonprofit groups an opportunity to raise funds for their efforts.
In other business:
Candy Girouard, a Pennsylvania woman with family in Follansbee who is opening a nightclub at the former Ariana Restaurant, spoke. Girouard said the club will be open only to adults, but she and her partner are considering daytime attractions for youth, such as an arcade, for the second floor, pending renovations.
Council agreed to accept applications for its council at large seat up to 5 p.m. on Dec. 21 and to meet on Dec. 10 to fill the seat, which will become vacant on Jan. 1 when Councilman Jim Andreozzi resigns to serve as Brooke County commissioner.
The chosen applicant will serve the remaining six months of Andreozzi's term, with the seat to be filled afterward through the city's 2013 election.
In related business, City Clerk David Kurcina said at council's next regular meeting Monday he will present a candidate for deputy election clerk to assist him with the election.
City Manager John DeStefano told council a recycling business has approached the city about collecting discarded televisions, computer monitors and other electronic devices. DeStefano noted the city can no longer collect such items because state law prohibits landfills from accepting them. But he said he will contact the Brooke County Solid Waste Authority after it was noted the board has held electronics trash collections in the past.
City Police Chief John Schwertfeger said 130 children attended the Christmas party sponsored by his department Sunday at Follansbee Middle School Field House. The children were entertained by a magician and each received a treat bag, he said.