Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 11, 2012

Plenty under the tree

Members of local online coupon club make sure families at Safe Harbor have a merry Christmas

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND —  Local members of an online coupon club wanted to do some little something for the women and children at Safe Harbor who otherwise would not have much at Christmas.

“We were hoping the coupon club could get one toy per child. We didn’t think we could do it,” said club member Melinda Hester.

Unfamiliar with Safe Harbor and its mission to assist and support victims of domestic violence, Hester said she was nearly overwhelmed with the needs of so many women and their children. The children needed toys for Christmas, yes, although she later realized the families also needed beds to sleep in and clothes to wear, she said.

“We just didn’t know how we were going to meet this need,” Hester continued, explaining the effort quickly gained momentum through the club’s Facebook page. Administrators at King’s Daughters Medical Center also donated meeting space for the coupon club, leading to the involvement of a large group of employees pitching in, as well as spreading word about the Safe Harbor toy drive to members of the Kentucky Biker Association.

“In two days it was maxed out to a big Fed Ex truck. And, we have already delivered three car loads,” Hester said, noting a $650 cash contribution by the statewide bikers’ group.

And, by the time the Fed Ex truck was ready to roll, volunteers had collected enough gifts to fill two more just like it.

Coupon Club spokesman Sabra Hall of Ashland said the group had already worked to provide Christmas gifts for children associated with Shelter of Hope, and supported Lexie’s Box of Love before hearing about the need at Safe Harbor.

“I said, ‘OK, we’ll try. We’ll do our best,’” Hall said, expressing her amazement at the amount of giving between relative strangers in such a short time.

Sorting through the three car loads of delivered donations, Rachel Hall at Safe Harbor said families seeking shelter often arrive with nothing. Even though there is a clothing closet and other resources for them, Hall said the need for household items is constant.

“My office is full to the hilt,” Hall said, explaining she was tackling preliminary sorting of items for individual families at Safe Harbor.

“We have 70, almost 80 women and their children so we always have a need for blankets and things like that.” Hall said, adding used furniture is especially appreciated. “It’s year-round. It’s not just Christmas.”

Debbie Foster, who lives in Ashland and drives a Fed Ex route in the Louisa area, said she was drawn in by the coupon club’s post and said, “I’ll be glad to pitch in and see if my friends will help. Of course, a lot of my friends are my customers,” she said, noting Marsha Slone at Farmhouse Memories and Teresa Burke at The Urban Farmhouse immediately adopted the project and made their shops drop-off points for others who wanted to help.

“Those two just spread the word and it just went crazy,” Foster reported, saying she initially thought she could deliver the donated items in her vehicle during a lunch break, “but then it exploded! These women spread the word down here and then a church, the mothers from Louisa United Methodist Church, got involved and now I’m delivering a truckload to Safe Harbor.”

Foster called her supervisors, Kim Hornbuckle and Stephen Davis in Huntington and senior supervisor Mike Davis in Charleston to ask if she could use a big Fed Ex truck to deliver everything, and was thrilled when each gave their approval.  

With knowledge that all children, and their guardians, will be have plenty under the tree for Christmas this year, Hester said she is confident everyone at Safe Har bor will have plenty to celebrate with.

“They’re going to have a great Christmas up there,” Hester said. “They are going to have some awesome toys.”

For more information about Safe Harbor, call Jennifer Allen at (606) 329-9304.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.