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Friday, November 11, 2016

Bill Pekarski Day 74, Living life on my terms

John Domaleski enjoying some dessert with Christmas House volunteers Billie Haskins, Georgia Holloran Merrick, and Judy Mottershead.
Bill Pekarski
2 hrs · Coudersport ·

Day 74, Living life on my terms.

Today I had the privilege of meeting up with my friend and County Commissioner, Paul W. Heimel, as we enjoyed a wonderful light lunch at the Christmas House. Today was their annual open house and they offered an assortment of soups and sandwiches for everyone who stopped to visit. They even had some desert items to tempt the old taste buds as well.

The Christmas House is located on the corner of Main and Water Street in a humble little building. Although it is small is size, it is overflowing with love and joy. Neatly wrapped gifts are packed onto shelves that encapsulate the entire main room. There were several local people who were seated at the tables enjoying not only the food, but also the friendship and atmosphere.

You can’t walk into the Christmas House without feeling the love, appreciation, and dedication of the volunteers. As their mission statement states; “We’re unique in our mission because are powered solely by volunteers and by donations.”

It is a welcome relief from all of the charities that have corporate CEO’s who actually draw a salary from donations that are made. Here, everything single cent and donation goes to needy people.

While they strive to bring “Christmas joy” to those in need, they do so much more all throughout the year. Why you might ask? The answer is simple, because sometimes we all need a little Christmas.

The Christmas house works in conjunction with the Salvation Army and other Human Service agencies to help keep families in their homes by assisting with utility bills and rent. Additionally, they have a facility that houses donated furniture and household items that they make available for distribution to families as needed.

Well, like I said, Paul and I came there today to meet up for lunch. We have been friends for many years and with his busy schedule, we don’t get together as often as we may like. I perused the soup offerings and a wonderful volunteer, Judy Mottershead, dished me up a bowl of beef vegetable. She even carried it over to the table for me as I grabbed a ham salad sandwich to compliment the soup.

As I positioned my oxygen bottle out of the way, Judy asked me “are you the one who does the story writing on facebook.” I can’t tell you how much I love answering that question. It seems like every time I go out in public, someone stops to tell me how much they love these stories. They let me know that I sparked memories they may have forgotten and even that I touched their hearts. To me there is no greater feeling.

After I told Judy that I was the person that was writing daily stories, I explained to her that I really wanted to focus on the Christmas House. I knew that they gave gifts at Christmas time to the less fortunate, and that they provided items for people who would lose their home or property due to fire.

What I didn’t realize is that they provide new shoes for school age children before the start of school each fall. They are able to accomplish this fete with help from the NDHP Motorcycle Fraternity and their generous annual donation. Besides the shoes, they have clothing that is provided year round and warm winter coats in the cold months for people of all ages.

Additionally, they keep a limited food pantry to make sure that families do not go hungry throughout the year. They provide vouchers for fresh milk, eggs, and bread as well.

In the past year, the Christmas House assisted more than 200 families. That is a giant task that is completed from donations and the hearts of volunteers doing the work behind the scene. It is truly awe inspiring.

Well, you would know that Paul and I are both a little nostalgic about our community. I mentioned as we looked over the beautiful gifts placed along the windows that I remember when this place was Austin’s Meat Market and those same windows were packed with “Charles Chips” in a Can. He and I both agreed that those were the best chips and how much we would love to still have a can.

Over the years that building housed several businesses including a little game room and pizza shop, but as the Christmas House, that building is serving a cause so much greater than its diminutive size. Judy was very proud and honored to give me a wealth of information about their history and mission statement. You can’t help but appreciate the work that they do.

Many people donate new gifts year round and the volunteers sort and wrap the gifts. Each package is then tagged on the outside detailing what the gift is and what age range/sex it would be appropriate. Besides having store bought gifts, some crafty people donate homemade items like mittens, afghans, socks and soft toys.

All in all, it is a place where miracles happen. I would encourage everyone to just stop by sometime and check them out. Furthermore, if you have the means, consider making a donation as everything stays in our local communities to help our friends and neighbors.

Today I dedicate my progress to the Christmas House and all of the wonderful work they do. They are so much more than providing gifts during the holiday season and I was so happy to get a look into their world.


Unknown said...

I have enjoyed reading your stories and wanted to add my prayers and best wishes to you and your family.
I now live in California but Roulette is still "home" and i remember your Mom and her family well.

Steve Erway said...

Just a little bit of insight into how the Christmas House was started...Alice Reese started working part time for the Human Services in 1986 and had a room in the old County Home that she helped people that were referred to her that needed help. Unfortunately it burned down in May of 92. In June of 93 Alice had retired and started the Christmas House at its current location at "Austin's Meat Market". She spent countless volunteer hours and others soon jumped in to help, as is the norm in all good small town endeavors. Mark Benson was also recruited to do many hours of dressing as Santa and also ringing the bell for the Red Kettle Fund during busy shopping hours at the holiday season. Like Bill said, there are many people supporting the Christmas House now. Where would we be without our volunteers? I love Potter County! Thanks Bill, you're a gem!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Steve for remembering Alice, she was a wonderful, compassionate & caring lady, She always went far & above her call of duty for the Christmas House, She sure was a Gem !!
Thank you for not letting us forget Alice !!!!