Town employees made a special delivery to Hospitality House just in time for Christmas, distributing a wide array of gifts for the facility's youngest residents.

On Dec. 22, Town Office employees Diane Hamilton and Hannah Sisk and Rockport Fire Chief Jason Pealsey arrived with a carload of presents at the Old County Road shelter.

"Christmas is about the kids, and we wanted to do something for them this year," said Hamilton.

She had reached out to Ev Donnelly, a volunteer coordinator at Knox County Homeless Coalition, who supplied her with a list of names and ages of children staying at Hospitality House.

Each origami star on the town office Christmas tree was labeled with the gender and age of one of the 11 children staying at the Hospitality House. Then employees and residents picked stars and donated presents to the children.

"The Christmas tree stands in our lobby each winter, and this year we wanted to put something special on it," said Hamilton.

Each star was meticulously folded by Sisk at the Town Office.

"Sometimes we can get so caught up in the material aspects of Christmas that people underestimate the power of a small gift," said Sisk. "This is a time of year especially when people's personal circumstances should not let them be excluded."

Pealsey was also involved in his own campaign to help families in need. When he became chief five years ago, he began "Adopt a Family," which provides food, clothing and gifts to a family in the area. Through his time spent conducting fire safety demonstrations at the Camden-Rockport Elementary School, Peasley drew on his relationship with the school to find a family in need. This year's family included two young children and a hardworking mother and father.

"These are people like the rest of us who are going through hard times and difficulties that weren't self-imposed," Peasley said. "The community has done a lot for us at the Fire Department — allowing us to get the equipment that we need in order to do our job — and it's nice to be able to give back."

Peasley's "Adopt a Family" campaign also seeks to go beyond simply furnishing the family with a Christmas dinner, to provide them with a supply of groceries that will last them for the week leading up to the holiday. This year local businesses donated heating oil and gift cards to the cause as well.

In addition to the gifts gathered at the Rockport Town Office, KCHC Executive Director Stephanie Primm said this year more than 90 families in Knox County and associated with the coalition were "adopted" by families in the community.

"It's been an amazing outpouring of love and generosity — the true Christmas spirit!" said Primm on Dec. 22.  "Many of the gifts have been delivered, but our barn is still looking much like Santa's Workshop."

Hospitality House is affiliated with the Knox County Homeless Coalition and serves as the coalition's family shelter, with a maximum capacity of 23 residents.