HOLDEN – The reindeer were resting up for their Christmas Eve travels, but Santa and his elves were on the sleigh, being guided through Holden and Whitman Creek by Marines and the Cora No. 7 Volunteer Fire Department.
For the first time in over 20 years, the No. 7 Holden Freewill Baptist Church was joined by the fire department and Marines on their annual sleigh ride to distribute toys and food to families.
Bobby and Debbie Barnett started the tradition and said the cold and rainy Christmas Eve weather could not dampen their spirits or keep them from their Christmas mission.
“We have our packages, our elves and we even have a top over our sleigh,” said Bobby, ”We’re ready to go.”
Every year, the Barnetts work with the youth group and other volunteers at their church to load their sleigh with Christmas gifts and set out from the church at 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
The sled covers over ten miles on its mission, winding through Holden number five, six, seven, eight and all of Whitman Creek, including Bradshaw up to the nursing home.
There is no notice given, names submitted or lists made and whoever is out on the street when the sled comes by gets something.
“Some of the people we see will get from the sled the only things they will have for Christmas. We give to everyone, adults as well as kids,” said Bobby, “We give the families hams, fruit and other food to have on Christmas.”
This year, Marines contributed toys to distribute through the local fire department and a few even rode along with the sleigh and helped the elves.
Residents along their route know Santa comes through, and they were waiting by windows, on porches, sidewalks and by the road. Everyone waiting for Santa received a gift and some even came aboard the sleigh to sit on Santa’s lap.
The Christmas Sled is funded entirely through the church and fund raisers by the youth. The children have a “Penny March” every Sunday to contribute their change, which usually adds up to $3,000-$4,000 by the end of the year. Volunteers from the church shop, wrap and label the gifts (boy or girl and appropriate age for toy). Then, they wait for Christmas Eve and Santa.
To donate or for more information, call Bobby or Debbie Barnett at 304-239-3710 during the day, or 304-239-3541 evenings.