STEUBENVILLE - Yes, the Rev. Ashley Steele, there is a Santa Claus.
Santa represents the many individuals and organizations in Jefferson County who have once again purchased new bikes, dolls, footballs and a variety of games and toys that will be distributed today and Friday at the Urban Mission Ministries on North Fifth Street.
Steele sat in her executive director's office last week worried there still was a need for adoptions to take place this year so every child registered for the annual Christmas event would receive a gift they really wanted this year.
WHO WANTS A BIKE? — Dozens of area children will receive a new bicycle today and Friday at the Urban Mission Ministries’ annual Christmas event for area children. Linda Smith, left, program director, and the Rev. Ashley Steele, executive director of the Urban Mission Ministries, checked out the bicycles stored in a church hallway.
-- Dave Gossett
"As of last Friday we had nine children left, and I was a little concerned. Then we had one family 'adopt' two children, and there was another woman who wanted to add a child to her adoption list," Steele related as she stood in the Urban Mission Ministries sanctuary Wednesday surrounded by hundreds of wrapped presents.
Dozens of bicycles were lined up in rows in a nearby hallway that Steele and Linda Smith, program director at the Urban Mission, gamely tried to climb over and around the bikes for a photo opportunity.
"Then we got an e-mail from the Sycamore Tree Church, who wanted a list of any remaining children who needed to be adopted for Christmas.
"It all worked out for everyone, especially the children," added Steele.
According to Smith, there are 363 children who are registered for the annual Christmas present "adoptions."
"Last year we had 400 children registered, but we didn't see as many families register this year," noted Smith.
"Those families who came too late to register for the program were either referred to the Salvation Army or they signed up for our Santa's recycling shop that will take place on Dec. 18 and 19 here at the mission. And we are still looking for more new or gently used toys for that event," added Smith.
"We had some great donors participating in this year's event, including Trinity Health System, the FirstEnergy Sammis plant, the American Electric Energy Cardinal plant, the Tiltonsville United Methodist Church and the Church of the Cross in East Springfield. We also saw the post office come on board this year," cited Smith.
"We even had a church in Newcomerstown that asked us for a list of children to 'adopt' for Christmas. It is a great feeling to see so much support for the children and this program," remarked Steele.
"I'll take my small town anytime. People care about other people here, and they help in any way they can," Smith stated.
"This makes you realize what Christmas is all about," said Steele.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)