Concert, collection cook up Christmas for kids|[12/23/07]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 23, 2007

On Saturday, the facility best known best its steel bars and the inmates behind them was filled with thousands of wrapped presents, cheerful givers and recipients, and Santa Claus looked on merrily.

During the late morning and early afternoon hours, about 260 children of needy families went to the Warren County Jail at 1000 Grove St. and left with bicycles, TVs, toys, balls and plenty more. The toy drive was a joint effort of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department and the Chaplain’s Office.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said those benefitting were children of inmates locally and out-of-state and other children who otherwise might “fall through the cracks” of many other Christmas charities.

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“This is all about the kids,” Pace said. “We don’t look at this as a way of lending a helping hand to the inmates. Just the innocent children that are involved.”

Pace said some of those receiving gifts Saturday were families he and deputies had noticed during the year. It was the 16th year of the event, which is done in conjunction with Prison Fellowship.

Warren County Chaplain Earnie Hall said the community contributed tremendously to this year’s drive, with money and toy donations coming from numerous local businesses and drop-offs at various locations.

But the biggest fund raiser, Hall said, was the 10th Annual Jammin’ For The Kids concert Dec. 13 at Jacque’s restaurant and bar. Spearheaded by Mike and Barbara Thum of Vicksburg, Jammin’ brought in $6,868, two truckloads of bicycles and two “large washer boxes” of toys.

With the money, Pace and six-year Chaplain’s Office volunteer Stacey Hartley went shopping — for more toys.

“The businesses loved it,” Pace said, “but the stock people had their hands full. We’d just go in and clear the shelves.”

Their schedules, he said, forced them to do some shopping at odd hours. “I believe there was one or two trips at about 11 at night.”

But they didn’t mind.

“It’s all worth it once you see the kids’ faces,” he said.

That’s what make it all worth it, Hall agreed.

“It was an absolutely wonderful day,” Hall said. “This is what the season is about.”