Spirit of giving is alive in Rockport

By Louis Bettcher | Dec 06, 2017
Photo by: Louis Bettcher Hannah Sisk, left, and Diane Hamilton pose with the festive tree in the lobby of the Rockport Town Office.

Rockport — As the holiday season approaches, the tradition of giving is alive and well in the Rockport Town Office and the Rockport Fire Station, where campaigns are under way to support those in need this Christmas.

In addition to participating in familiar efforts such as the Toys For Tots drive, this year the employees at the Rockport Town Office have joined with the Hospitality House in Rockport to make the holiday season special for the children currently in residence there. In the entryway of the Town Office, a tall, sparkling tree, replete with lights and ornaments, now hangs with handmade origami stars that bear the age and gender of each of these children.

Visitors to the Town Office may take a star and purchase and wrap a special gift with the gender and age of the child in mind. The gifts are to be returned to the Town Office, preferably by Friday, Dec. 22, so that they may be delivered to Hospitality House in time for Christmas.

The 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. Founded in 2014, KCHC is the only homeless organization in the area to serve Knox, Waldo, and part of Lincoln County, and its mission is to offer case management and peer support to people who have experienced homelessness and trauma.

"Christmas is about the kids, and we wanted to do something for them this year," said Town Office Executive Assistant Diane Hamilton Nov. 30. Hamilton reached out to Ev Donnelly, a volunteer coordinator at KCHC, who supplied her with a list of names and ages of children staying at Hospitality House.

"The Christmas tree stands in our lobby each winter, and this year we wanted to put something special on it," said Hamilton of the origami stars, which were each meticulously folded by Hannah Sisk, an administrative assistant who covers assessing, planning and codes at the Town Office. There is a star on the tree for each of the 11 children staying at Hospitality House, as well as one for a pregnant mother.

"I hope that this idea will entice people," said Hamilton. "Families can come in, choose a star, and after they have chosen a gift for one of these children, they can then place the ornament on their tree at home and explain to their own kids the story behind it and the importance of helping others in this community. No matter what else is going on in the world, this is a time to come together and remember what Christmas is all about."

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

Hamilton and Sisk are hopeful that all of the stars on the tree will be taken by visitors to the Town Office, but are prepared to put some extra gifts to one side to ensure that all the children at Hospitality House receive something from the project.

"Giving back to the community is always important: you can donate a gift, or you can donate your time to help someone. If anyone would like to sponsor one of the children on the tree but doesn't have time to go to the stores, they can come see Hannah or myself and we would be happy to go out and pick out a gift for them," said Hamilton.

Across the street from the Town Office, another act of kindness is being practiced at the Rockport Fire Station. For the third year running, Fire Chief Jason Peasley is helping ensure that a local family in need has food, warm clothing and gifts this holiday season.

Peasley came up with his idea, "Adopt a Family," while working at MBNA, but in his years as fire chief, through his time spent conducting fire safety demonstrations at the Camden-Rockport Elementary School, Peasley draws on his relationship with the school each year to find a family in need of some help during the holidays. This year's family includes two young children and a hardworking mother and father.

A flyer created by Peasley lists the items needed by the family. These include boots, hats, gloves and pants for both of the children, boys aged 8 and 9. Possible gift ideas that the boys expressed interest in are Lego sets, action figures, small remote-controlled cars, crayons, coloring books and board games. Although the parents made no requests for gifts, Peasley insists that they be provided with winter clothing.

"This is a great way for people with the ability to give to make a difference and give back to the community. These are people like the rest of us who are going through hard times and difficulties that weren't self-imposed," said Peasley Dec.1. "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. Local businesses have donated heating oil and gift cards to the cause as well. Peasley, who usually finds himself in "Santa's Workshop" wrapping gifts donated to the project, plans to deliver the goods to the family Dec. 17.

The Rockport Town Office is located at 101 Main St., and the Rockport Fire Department is located at 85 Main St.

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