The many volunteers who have made the Knoxville-based Christian ministry’s Christmas Campaign successful for the past two decades can reflect on the many Appalachian families they have helped. (More than half of them are in Eastern Kentucky).
At the same time, MOH realizes that the need has only grown since the ministry started in 1996.
“This is an affirmation that the need has not gone away,” said Executive Director Emmette Thompson, who became MOH’s first full-time employee in 1999.
“With all the coal mines that have closed and jobs that have been lost in Eastern Kentucky, the need remains great.”
So has MOH’s reach. Twenty years ago, the Christmas Campaign delivered toys to 150 children.
This year, Mission of Hope will deliver toys, clothes, food and hygiene items to 18,000 children at 27 schools where nearly all the students receive free or reduced lunch.
At Christmas time, MOH volunteers from more than 40 churches, including NorthEast Christian Church in Lexington, Versailles Baptist Church and Central Baptist in Paris, set up a “toy store” in each of the school gyms.
As students and faculty gather round the “store,” which is hidden by a plastic covering, volunteers conduct a brief evangelical program before they pull back the plastic – and the faces of grateful children light up like Christmas trees.
People in Central Kentucky can help spread the Hope by dropping off new toys, clothing, food and hygiene products from now through Monday, Dec. 7 in the MOH Big Blue Barrels.
Folks also can make tax-deductible donations.
“The time has long since passed where the Big Blue Barrel collections fill all of our needs for children,” Thompson said.
“That’s why your financial donations are more critical than ever before.”
MOH knows it is reaching the neediest children by working through schools and local mountain ministries.
“These people live there and they know who really are in need. We are not enablers,” Thompson said.
MOH is a volunteer driven charity with only three full-time employees (Thompson, Operations Manager Shirley Plant and Administrative Assistant Diane Webster. Lesa Medley is a part-time financial assistant.).
All associated with MOH share the same focus: children.
Said Thompson: “We want the children of Appalachia to have a better life and a better future.”