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YMCA, Community Team to Give Philipsburg-Area Children a Quality Christmas

by and on November 27, 2019 8:00 AM
Philipsburg, PA

PHILIPSBURG — The Moshannon Valley YMCA Christmas program is gearing up for another big year of giving. It’s a community-driven event the Y organizes, with leader Judy Sinclair at the helm.

People — employees of the local CenClear Child Care Services, teachers, nurses and principals of local schools and parents themselves — call the Y to provide names of children and families who should be on the list. Sinclair started getting calls about the Christmas program before Labor Day, but she waited until after the summer was over to start the list.

“Every family has a number,” Sinclair said. “It doesn’t go by last names at all.”

Last year, the Christmas program list tallied more than 500 children and 201 families. Some of the families also receive a turkey and a bag of groceries on pickup day. All of the items the children and families receive are donated by the community.

“I got $2,500 from the prisoners up at Houtzdale,” Sinclair said. “Every year, they donate money. It helps buy the turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuff like that. They earn money from working — a couple bucks a day or something, that’s where it comes from. I have never gone in the hole that the Y has had to pay money to buy the food. I’ve always had enough donations from places like the Elks, the American Legion, the AmVets, places like that, who donate money to help pay for all this. It has never come out of the Y.”

Distribution of the food, clothing and gifts is also a community effort. After Thanksgiving, bags of items for those in need will be loaded into two 18-wheel trailers provided by Ward Trucking. People volunteer to come in and wrap the gifts. Ward employees will then drive the loaded trailers to DiamondBack, in the Moshannon Valley Regional Business Park on the edge of Philipsburg, where the items are unloaded and organized.

It takes a team of volunteers to handle the more than 500 children and 200-plus families involved in the Moshannon Valley YMCA’s annual Christmas program. Submitted photo

“People volunteer to be there all day,” Sinclair said. “I can’t do it here — I can’t even keep it here. There’s just too much stuff. DiamondBack employees stay there and help do everything, too.”

The giving keeps going even after Christmas is over.

“The Kiwanis donate so much money every year, and after Christmas, when everything goes on sale — they give money to a lady, and she goes and gets coats and things, maybe $75 coats, for six of seven bucks,” said Sincalir. “They bring it in here, and we keep it, and if a kid needs a coat, we make sure they have a coat.”

The Philipsburg YMCA Christmas program has been changing lives for 40 years. According to Sinclair, a local cable company offered a special years ago that provided people free HBO for a month if they brought in a toy.

“When they got the toys, they didn’t know what to do with them,” Sinclair said. “So they called (former YMCA director Keno Beezer) and me and asked us if we had kids who could use the toys. Of course Keno said yes, and we delivered to all these families. So it went from there. Then a shoe store went out of business and they asked if we could use these shoes. So I started getting sizes for shoes.”

Sinclair said sometimes people inevitably take advantage of the program, but “there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“I think, if I get that kid a coat for Christmas, that kid is going to school after Christmas with a new coat on and be able to say, ‘I got this coat for Christmas,’” Sinclair said. “That’s the way you have to think about it.”

Sinclair, the YMCA and the Philipsburg community are the real Santas of many families’ Christmases.

“I have actually gone into a store and had people — I have no idea who they are — say, ‘You’re Mrs. Sinclair, aren’t you?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yeah,’ and they’ll give me a hug and say, ‘Thank you, you made my kids’ Christmas,’” Sincalir said. “I get it all the time. I was at Grattan’s (Pharmacy) one day, and a woman came up and said, ‘Look at this picture.’ And it was a Christmas tree, and all the packages were around it. And she said, ‘This was you.’ She said, ‘My kids would not have had Christmas if it were not for the Y.’”

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Teresa Mull
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