Christmas, it has been said, is about the gifts we give. One of the great things about living in Adams County is not only so many generous people are willing to pitch in help when it’s needed, but the county still is small enough that we know most of them. At least, we know their names when we hear them, even if we have not actually met them.
Adams Countians have, for instance, contributed more than 80 winter coats and jackets as Christmas gifts to kids who would not otherwise have them.
The program was the brainchild of Gettysburg resident Jenny Dumont, chair of Gettysburg Rising – an organization which, it turns out, is active in other civic engagement efforts, as well. She said she got the idea shortly after the 2016 election, and was spurred on by events such as the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
“My heart went out to our immigrant community,” Dumont told me.
Originally from Ohio, she had participated in a high school student exchange program to Ecuador, and then earned her degree at the University of New Mexico, so when she settled in Gettysburg to be a Spanish program professor at Gettysburg College, she was familiar with our Hispanic immigrants and their culture.
Her familiarity with the Central American people led to her desire to help those living in Adams County. Then, while grabbing dinner at a local Subway, she met Manos Unidas Executive Director Amelia Contreras. A short conversation and a couple of days, and Contreras presented a list of young folks in need of winter coats.
And that’s how it’s done. A need, some conversation, a call for neighbors’ help. It is the way barns once were raised in rural Pennsylvania. Some, I imagine still are. People’s homes burn and neighbors help by providing places to live as well as clothing and other accoutrements of daily existence.
I am not, I am occasionally told, a common Old Guy. I have been following trends in technology since the 1980s, when we were only just beginning to learn to spell the word “c-o-m-p-u-t-e-r.” In fact, I date my history to a time when high school students were not allowed to use calculators in class because that would be an unfair advantage to students whose parents could not afford the high price of a device that would, at that time, perform only addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. My! How times have changed.
In those days, someone would tape a label on an empty pretzel jar – thus noting the need to be filled – and place it on the counter at the general store.
The Internet does indeed have power to bring people together, though, especially when Covid has us largely confined to our homes, or at least staying a double arm-length away from other humans. And with so many of us out of work, Christmas likely is a tough reach for many.
Dumont has created a spreadsheet on Google Docs that would-be donors can look at to discover the ages and genders of kids needing coats. Visit the “Gettysburg Rising” page on Facebook and click on the “Announcements” heading to see the list.
She said some people would rather give money than buy the coat; that money will be used to purchase hats and gloves. Checks may be mailed to her home. For her address, or to learn where to drop off purchased coats, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Being properly clothed for the environment is a basic human need,” Dumont said, “and if I can help tap into the generosity of others to help get that need fulfilled, I enjoy the holidays even more.”
It is truly making Merry Christmas.