CAReS Executive Director Trish Hall has found the Ashland community has a lot of Santa’s helpers.
With Giving Tree donations down, Hall again reached out to the community last week asking for help and they responded like a band of busy elves.
Volunteers stepped forward and so did some donors, including $5,000 from King’s Daughters Medical Center and $10,000 on Saturday from the Jingle Bell Ball Charity.
Carol Jean Cieraszynski, who started the Jingle Bell Ball 13 years ago, presented Hall with the check as hundreds lined up outside the neighborhood waiting for sacks full of toys and clothes for nearly 600 children.
“Once again, whatever needed to happen for us happened,” Hall said. “We were kind of up against it but not doing it was not really an option.”
Hall credited a story in the newspaper with being the catalyst for extra donations and extra volunteers.
“I had a feeling if we asked, people would step forward,” she said. “The Independent article made a difference.”
Cieraszynski usually makes the Jingle Bell Ball contribution in January but the local realtor felt like the time was right now. She started the charity in memory of her son, Curtis Nusbaum, who died of a heart aneurysm in 1997 at the age of 32. The child psychologist had committed his life to improving the lives of special needs children and was always helping others.
Her other son, Michael, attended a charity ball in Norfolk, Va., where the Marines collected Toys for Tots at the entrance.
“We don’t have the Marines but we have CAReS,” Cieraszynski said. She immediately began making plans for the firt ball in 2000 and it has been “13 successful years,” she said.
Hundreds were lined up outside the doors of CAReS 30 minutes before the Giving Tree distribution even started. It takes about three hours to get everyone their items. Individuals in need sign up in advance of the event.
“It’s all about the kids,” Cieraszysnki said. “I was there as a child. I went without Christmas myself a few times. That shouldn’t happen. I know the feeling. These kids need hope and to know that people care about them.”
Several volunteers were stationed in different places as the doors opened to the hundreds on 25th Street and Carter Avenue. The well-organized distribution plan left those receiving the gifts with smiles and some tears. As one woman waited for her package, tears were streaming down her face.
Ashley Traylor, a former VISTA worker with CAReS, has continued working as a volunteer for the Giving Tree. This was her fifth one. “The Giving Tree is in my blood,” she said. “We are helping put a smile on the face of 596 kids. To me, that’s a blessing. God has been over this entire Giving Tree.”
Cieraszynski and Teresa Wright-Powers, who was over the Silent Auction at the Jingle Bell Ball, also gave a shout-out to Fannin Motors for allowing the use of their building for the ball.
“We are so grateful and thankful to Chris Fannin for all that they do in this area,” Wright-Powers said. “So many people just see them as so big, but they do a lot. I know we appreciate all they do for us. They shut down their building from Wednesday to Saturday for us. They go above and beyond.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.