The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

December 18, 2007

HALO gifts distributed to needy

Needs of poor being met

ASHTABULA — Bundled in hats, colorful scarves and clutching folded gift vouchers, a long line of people waited for what could be the only gifts their children will receive this holiday.

Holiday Angels Loving Others (HALO) volunteers ushered the people through a maze of tables filled with red Elmo toys, remote-controlled cars and other gifts at Mother of Sorrows, Tuesday afternoon, and will continue the effort today. Last-minute needs will be met on Thursday, HALO coordinator Pam Richcreek said.

Ashtabula resident Rochelle Jones took her time choosing the perfect gift for her 4-year-old son.

“This has been a tough year for us.” Jones said. “My family is helping with the gifts, but I just wanted him to have something under the tree from me,” Jones said. “I really want this to be a good Christmas for him.”

HALO, which evolved from the Share Your Christmas Program, is coordinated by Catholic Charities as a collaborative effort among several Ashtabula County agencies. Donations to HALO provide needy families with Christmas gifts and food.

“Our mission is to help every Ashtabula County resident in need at Christmas,” HALO fund-raising chairman William “Red” Leonard said. “We are the holiday helping hand.”

Income-qualified residents sign up for the charity in November. Each household receives a toy for each child and a food voucher good for everything except alcohol and tobacco products, at any local grocery store, Leonard said.

“We help more than 2,000 households every year, and every year there is more need. Every year, there are more stories of hungry children and children who wouldn’t have a Christmas without HALO,” he said.

HALO has distribution centers in Geneva, Ashtabula, Conneaut and Jefferson.

Leonard said everyone falls on hard times in their lives.

“People get sick; they lose their jobs and their homes; and even people who work hard and struggle to get along day after day, need help sometimes. They do the best they can, and we are here to help,” he said.

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