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LOVE Sparky’s Kids will help nearly 1,000 children this Christmas

Akin to Santa’s workshop, Love Inc volunteers are in the middle of packing and getting the toys and gifts ready for 943 Suwannee County children. This is just a portion of the seemingly endless toys and bags filled with toys and gifts in other rooms and at the Live Oak Fire Department that will all come together and be distributed on December 23. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

By Tami Stevenson

Each year in the United States, most Americans, with the help of Santa and his elves, celebrate the birth of their Lord Jesus Christ made evident by the Christmas decorations in every store, Christmas music playing everywhere, and the spirit of giving being renewed and made alive and well again as the joyfully anticipated holiday approaches. Some say it has become so commercialized the true meaning of Christmas has been forgotten. This is not so, however, for those who give without expecting anything in return, for those volunteers that work in nursing homes, homeless shelters and soup kitchens or for people like Love In The Name of Christ (Love Inc) Director Lisa Kriehn who is associated with those less fortunate on a daily basis and knows their struggles. It is this time of year she sees the spirit of giving more powerfully than any other time of year and for her, it is all in the Name of Christ.

Organizations like Love Sparky’s Kids have been a beacon of hope for those parents less fortunate, for whatever reason, that cannot afford the latest greatest toys, gifts and clothing for their children on Christmas morning. This year marks their greatest year as they will help 943 Suwannee County children have a better Christmas. In conjunction with Love Inc, the Live Oak Fire Department, law enforcement, numerous churches, Advent Christian Village’s Watkins Hoppy Shop Club, local businesses and a giving and generous community, Sparky’s Kids will see their largest year to date.

“It grows every year and we have been very blessed,” said Kriehn last week during an interview with the Suwannee Valley Times.

It costs around $75 per child in order for them to have a good Christmas. That includes clothing and toys, Kriehn stated. They still need some items. The toys asked for most this year she said are Pokeman, Hot Wheels, My Little Pony, Shopkins, baby dolls, and body sprays for the older children to make up gift packs. Ear buds are also really high on the list and very inexpensive. They will be distributing the gifts on December 23, but said there is still time to give if anyone still wants to donate. If they give cash, she and her team will take the money and go shopping for the kids.

Something she has wanted to do for a long time is possible this year. They are able to include children from the Sheriff’s Youth Ranches (the Boy’s Ranch) that are not going home for Christmas. “I’m so excited.” She said, “The sheriff (Sam St. John) did a fundraiser at Winn Dixie along with the fire chief (Chad Croft) so they could take care of those children for Christmas. Usually most of them go home for Christmas but there are some that aren’t this year. So I’m really excited about this and hope this grows for them.”

A great number of food baskets will also be distributed this year. Kriehn said the Elks Lodge is going to distribute one hundred Christmas food baskets, Pepperidge Farms has donated the stuffing. Then the Suwannee Sheriff’s Mounted Posse is doing twenty-five food baskets, along with many local churches, businesses and individuals.

Yes, it is a lot of work but there is so much reward at the end. “When we leave there on the 23rd, I can go home and finally sleep and say okay, the babies are all taken care of,” Kriehn stated. “We don’t do this for any personal gain. We don’t even want people to really know who we are, they don’t need to know who did it.”

As Christmas approaches, the human spirit seems to shine more brightly, transforming lives and communities one volunteer at a time.

Love INC is located at 120 Ohio Avenue North in Live Oak. Call the Love INC office at 386-364-4673 for more information.