MORGANTOWN — To say the West Virginia National Guard Readiness Center was a beehive of activity on Monday would be overly generous to bees.
To the uninitiated observer, it was barely organized chaos. To the small army of volunteers it takes to pull off the annual Holiday Food & Toy Distribution, it was the first step in delivering a merrier Christmas to hundreds of local families.
The 37th annual distribution will be held from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Thursday at the readiness center. The event is sponsored by the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties and co-sponsored by Christian Help.
Volunteers will be on site through Wednesday getting ready to welcome more than 500 families shopping for nearly 900 children. Those numbers don’t include 200-300 people expected to register the day of the event.
Christian Help Director Colleen Lankford said the amount of volunteer work that goes into the event is awe-inspiring. She said more than 350 volunteers will work on distribution day alone.
“This event mobilizes Mon County like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Lankford said. “Right now we’re in the middle of receiving all the products, and this has all been accumulated in the past 60 days or so over at Christian Help.”
Toys are broken down by gender, age range and approximate value. Families will be given a shopping allowance and a volunteer to assist with their selections.
Along with toys, bikes, clothes, outerwear and media — books, music, movies — families will also be able to pick up groceries based on the size of the household.
Christian Help Public Relations Coordinator Erica Mayle said the massive undertaking is just one of several similar events taking place in the area, a fact that underscores the scope of the need.
“Even though this has been going on for so long, I don’t think people realize how many people are being served, and this is just one of the events happening around Morgantown. None of the events serve the same people because that’s something we check,” Mayle said. “There are so many events because the need is there.”
Lankford said the recipients are always grateful for the assistance, as is she.
“None of this could be done without the community. We have a very involved network of individuals who have helped Christian Help and the United Way for many decades,” she said. “All that they do culminates in this event. No way Christian Help could ever do this by itself.”
If you are in need of support but missed the registration deadline, you can show up at the readiness center around 2 p.m. on Thursday to get signed up.