Springs librarian Ann Cooper and Olga Harris, founder of the Share
the Joy project, with the librarys Christmas tree where local
residents can find gift ideas for villagers in need.
the joy this holiday season
On Christmas morning, children all over Yellow Springs will gleefully
open their new Barbie jeeps, their Sony Play Station 2s, their Chicken
Elmos. Sharing their childrens joy will be the mothers and fathers
who purchased and wrapped the gifts, as well as some parents who couldnt
afford gifts for their children. Instead of finding nothing under the
tree, those children will find their own Barbies and Elmos thanks to the
Share the Joy project, a local program that matches local residents in
need with those with something extra and a desire to give.
The program really lives up to its name, said Yellow Springs
Library employee Ann Cooper. The people who bring in gifts are really
happy. Theyve wrapped up their gifts carefully and seem to have
found such delight in selecting a gift for a stranger.
Share the Joy begins
each Christmas season with a small tree put up in the Yellow Springs Library.
Families in need contact Mary Ann Bebko of the Yellow Springs Emergency
Welfare Committee, who writes on a tag the specific need gloves
for a 15-year-old girl, for example, or a warm coat for a toddler. Each
family can request three items. The tags are placed on a tree, and villagers
who wish to give select a tag. The giver purchases a gift, wraps it and
returns it to the library, where Bebko picks it up. Those who requested
the gifts pick them up at Bebkos home, then take them to their own
homes to await Christmas morning. No one knows the names of those who
give and those who receive.
I watch the mothers pick up their bags, said Bebko. Thats
really something. Theyre always quiet and grateful and dignified.
Bebko also said she is astounded each year by villagers
eagerness to pick tags off the tree, and their desire to do everything
they can. The gifts come back so beautifully wrapped. I am in awe.
Share the Joy works, Bebko believes, because it matches those who wish
to give with those who need in a way that allows everyone dignity. Villagers
in need about 55 to 60 individuals a year fill out tags
have great pride, she said, and are often invisible. They dont
want to be seen. Its all the more important to remember that theyre
there and theyre struggling, Bebko said.
The program was started 15 years ago, Bebko said, because several local
residents wanted to find a way to reach out to those in need during the
holiday season. For years such needs had been met in an informal way,
with low-income villagers communicating their needs to Bebko, who runs
the local Emergency Welfare Committee.
It was hit and miss, Bebko said of the program then. Wed
try to find some money.
More villagers needed to be involved in the giving, Bebko felt. At the
same time, Yellow Springs Library employee Olga Harris wanted to come
up with a way to find out who was in need. Each year, her friend Juanita
Richardson of St. Paul Catholic Church let her know of people in need,
but Harris believed many needs went unknown.
One Christmas Harris happened to shop at an area K-mart, where a Christmas
tree was decorated with tags that identified local needs anonymously
a winter coat for a woman, for instance, or a doll for a 4-year-old.
I thought, thats it, said Harris, who approached
her boss at the library, Charity Dell, about using the library to house
a tree since its a central place. The whole village comes
to the library. Dell agreed, and the women approached Bebko to help
organize the project. Bebko was delighted, and Share the Joy began.
Everyone did their little bit, said Harris. It just
The structure of the program has changed little since its inception 15
years ago and only the gifts have changed, with the childrens
wishes a bit more high tech and the Barbies more glitzy. If a family requests
a gift that seems too expensive or picky and no one chooses to buy it,
Bebko said she communicates that to the family. Most tags get picked off
the tree and the tags for necessities, such as winter clothing or food,
are almost always chosen, she said. If theyre not, the Emergency
Welfare Committee or the Yellow Springs Police Department, which purchases
winter coats for children, will purchase the items.
Everyone plays a part, said Bebko. Its wonderful.
A few days before Christmas the deadline this year is Dec. 22
all gifts are taken to the library. Library employees enjoy taking part
in the program, said Cooper and Harris, who is now retired. Harris said
she especially delighted in seeing children bring in Share the Joy presents
they had purchased and wrapped themselves.
Bebko said it is also gratifying when families who once requested gifts
from the program now take tags from the tree to give gifts to others.
That, Bebko said, is the best part of all.
the Joy project details
Local residents who need assistance from the Share the Joy project, an
effort to provide local children with gifts of toys and clothing, must
fill out request forms in the Yellow Springs Library by Friday, Dec. 13.
Completed forms should be deposited into a box near the librarys
Volunteers will code the requests and put tags on the tree. Then, holiday
shoppers will choose tags and purchase gifts for those needing assistance.
The wrapped gifts, which will have tags attached, will be returned to
the library by Sunday, Dec. 22, and decoded. Recipients will be called
to pick them up.
Adults asking for special food items or an article of clothing are welcome
to use the same request forms, but should keep food and gift requests
separate. Food is always available by calling 767-1521.