Kids packed Main Street stores in Healdton to go shopping during Shine the Light, the area’s annual gift drive.
Every year, about 45 kids in need from the Healdton area climb into Carter County Sheriff’s Department and Healdton Fire Department vehicles and go Christmas shopping with an adult volunteer. Each child has $100 to spend on whatever they’d like. Organizer Cindy Morgan said she’s helped with the event for the last eight years.
“It’s organized chaos,” Morgan said, pausing to help a volunteer. “There’s the same volunteers, and there’s new ones sometimes, but there’s always the same core.”
First Bank & Trust in Healdton helps sign families up for the event. Morgan said aside from the Santa tree at the Healdton Chamber of Commerce, there aren’t many events like this one in the area, which prompted an anonymous donor to fund the program eight years ago.
“At one point in time we did have Toys for Tots, but I’m not sure what happened,” Morgan said. “That’s when this person, our secret Santa, came to us.”
Since then, the event has been funded by donations from the community every year. Donnie Glenn, an employee at First Bank & Trust in Healdton, volunteered for the event.
“It’s kind of our thing we do for the community,” Glenn said. “I just like watching their smiles.”
First Bank & Trust Branch Manager Jared Wilson has been assisting with the program for five years. He said the program is meant to help a specific region that doesn’t have as many alternatives.
“It’s helped quite a few families,” Wilson said. “We just help local stores, and we only help people in western Carter County, and we’ll even go into Jefferson County and Ringling. We let the kids decide what stores they want to go to.”
The biggest group headed to Dollar General, which was packed from the moment the event started.
Joel Ramirez, a deputy with the Carter County Sheriff’s Office, helped his shopping partner snag the last remote control drone in the store along with some Legos and Avengers headphones.
“We let the kids pick the toys on their own, then we help them figure out the amount,” Ramirez said. “We added it all up to $100, and we made sure we got the batteries. Pretty smart.”
Ramirez, who is a parent himself, said this marked the first year he was able to volunteer due to his schedule.
“I’ve got three of my own, but they’re all in college now,” Ramirez said. “So, this is fun for me too.”