CARTERVILLE — Each year, Santa gets some help from the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children to provide a brighter Christmas to children in Southern Illinois. The Poshard Foundation hosts one of the region’s largest toy giveaway events each year at John A. Logan College.
The foundation is giving away more than 1,500 toys this year, with each child receiving a large present and two smaller ones. Toys included bicycles, dolls, trucks, cars, trains, puzzles, games and much more.
During the annual toy giveaway, social service agencies pick out toys for their clients. Many of the toys come from the efforts of Richard Clark, owner of Tri-State Business Equipment in Harrisburg. Clark collects toys at this annual company Christmas party for the Poshard Foundation, according to founders Jo and Glenn Poshard.
The rest come from individual donations designated for Christmas and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Phyllis McCowen, a foundation volunteer, does the shopping.
“She looks for bargains and makes sure we get good deals,” Jo Poshard said.
“We used to get a lot of items from Pat’s Kids, then Pat Benton retired,” said Glenn Poshard, a former congressman whose district covered much of Macon County from 1989-99.
Some of the individual donors who used to donate through Pat’s Kids continue to earmark donations for the Poshard Foundation.
“These are children who are not on any list and not picked up by other Christmas programs,” Jo Poshard said.
The rate of abuse, neglect and abandonment is 2.5 times greater in Southern Illinois than in the rest of the state. Glenn Poshard said the toys go to the people charged with taking care of those children, more than 16 agencies.
Jo Poshard said this year two agencies have a lot of need, Centerstone and the Family Counseling Center.
According to Marsha Hayes of the Family Counseling Center, toys from the Poshard Foundation will go to approximately 75 children, and that will not serve all the children on the agency’s angel tree. This year, Family Counseling Center will provide gifts for 240 children in seven counties.
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“So, this is going to help immensely,” Hayes said.
Hayes said they had 263 children on their list in 2016, and she believes this year’s number will grow.
“Someone will turn in names they haven’t thought of, and I don’t have the heart to turn them down,” Hayes said.
She added that parents have difficulties like job loss, illnesses and addictions, but that is not the child’s fault. Children need to keep believing in Santa as long as possible, she said.
“I don’t know what we would do without the Poshard Foundation. Jo and Glenn are the largest-hearted people and always continue to help children,” Hayes said.
Niki Grajewski of Centerstone said they are shopping for about 75 children in three programs, family services, mental health services and halfway houses.
“For a lot of families, if they don’t get presents through this program, they would not get them at all,” Grajewski said. “This is our way of trying to make sure they have a happy holiday.”
The families served by Centerstone struggle to pay electric bills. Most do not have the resources to provide Christmas gifts for their children.
“We are always grateful for what the Poshard Foundation does. We have been working with them a long time, and they do a lot during the holidays. It’s fun to be a part of it,” Grajewski said.
The agencies also received small gifts for children to give their moms, and hats and gloves for the children. Mary Nehring of Oakdale crocheted many of the hats. Decorated sugar cookies made by McCowen were provided for the “shoppers.”
“The spirit of giving at Christmas is a primary focus, but the kids have needs throughout the year,” Glenn Poshard said.