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Project Merry Christmas wrapping up season

DEMOPOLIS &045;Gifts and donations from across the area will help some 400 children have a bright holiday season this year thanks to the volunteer efforts of Project Merry Christmas.

Mary Sue Henry, coordinator of the project, told the Demopolis Rotary Club yesterday that they still have 42 children they are trying to provide gifts to for the holidays.

Project Merry Christmas is run as a volunteer effort by members of the Marengo County Department of Human Resources set up to provide gifts and food for families with children between the ages of 2 and 12. Over the years, Henry said they have realized how fortunate the county is to have such an effort.

This year Project Merry Christmas received approximately 460 applications, which is an increase over last year. However, they are helping fewer children this year.

The program is an emotional ride for the volunteers. They see some of the best and worst in people.

Henry said the application form has a place for gift requests but often volunteers have to call parents and get a list. She told the story of one mother with a 13-year-old special needs child.

For Christmas, the teenage boy wants boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese &045; the kind you boil on the stove and make, not the microwavable packs. He likes to cook it.

The program gets a lot of support from area groups such as the Rotary Club, the local office of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, schools and churches.

This year, Marengo Academy students collected 1,000 cans for the food pantry. Henry said each class also adopted two children apiece. The students brought the gifts to school and had a wrapping party before taking them to Project Merry Christmas.

Henry said donations are down this year. She said this was to be expected because of the number of organizations in need of assistance. That said, she believes that Project Merry Christmas will be able to meet the needs of the applications they have accepted.