Santa's helpers working overtime
A TIME FOR GIVING – Bert Turcotte, left, director of emergency services at Riley Hospital, 6-year-old Matthew Vogel, and Douglas Arnold, Riley's chief operating officer, on Friday carry gifts to their cars to be delivered to Wesley House. Riley Hospital adopted foster children ranging in age from newborn to 18 from a list of 100 provided by the Wesley House Community Center. PHOTO by paula merritt / The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
December 14, 2002
Santa's helpers are working overtime to make sure all children in Meridian and Lauderdale County receive gifts for Christmas.
Continuing a tradition that began several years ago, Riley Hospital honored its physicians Friday by delivering gifts for 100 foster children to the Wesley House Community Center, a clearinghouse for community aid organizations.
The employees purchased toys for the children rather than buying gifts for physicians. Then they deliver the toys to Wesley House at the conclusion of the hospital's Christmas party.
The hospital and its employees spent more than $6,000 on presents for foster children this year, according to Glenda Sanders, Riley spokesperson. She said the most requested gifts from children were bicycles, compact disc players and remote control toys.
Steve Nichols, Riley chief executive officer, said the annual event is a way for the hospital to give back to the community.
This year's effort is proving to be a struggle, however, according to some who are collecting donations for needy families.
Nell Grissom, executive director of Wesley House, said she is grateful to Riley employees and all others who contribute. Grissom said she expected last Christmas to be the worst in many years, in terms of donations, because of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks, but this year has been slower than last.
Grissom said Wesley House still needs donations of toys and food for area foster children and donations of money to buy gifts for the children. She said volunteers plan to start packing gift baskets for families on Tuesday.
Captains Joe and JoAnn Mur with the Salvation Army in Meridian are worried about providing for all of the children in their Angel Tree program. This year has about 1,400 children of families in Meridian and neighboring counties that need help.
The deadline for donations for the Angel Tree program is today, but the Salvation Army will continue to take donations of toys at its distribution center in the old Winn Dixie building in the Broadmoor Shopping Center on North Hills Street through next week.
The Salvation Army's Angel Tree at the food court in Bonita Lakes Mall has an information center manned by a person who can assist people in getting gifts for children in the Angel Tree project. The center will be open until 8 p.m. tonight.