Moshannon Valley YMCA program provides Christmas presents for hundreds of area families

Volunteers help organize the bags of gifts at the old Cen-Clear building on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.
Volunteers help organize the bags of gifts at the old Cen-Clear building on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.

PHILIPSBURG The annual Moshannon Valley YMCA Christmas program has helped hundreds of families over the years and it continues to grow. .

Even inmates at the Houtzdale State Correctional Facility have donated to the cause.

All of the donations benefit families and children in the Philisburg-Osceola, West Branch and Moshannon Valley school districts. Judy Sinclair, the program’s organizer, has been with the YMCA for 45 years and has organized the program for at least 35 years.

Similar to Santa’s naughty and nice list, Sinclair has a 120-page notebook filled with hand-written notes on each family. When someone visits to pick up their items, Sinclair runs her finger up and down the pages looking for their last name. When she finds it, the name is crossed off and the items are delivered.

The notes contain information on the child’s name, age, grade (only those in sixth grade and under receive items, with a few exceptions) and sizes of various clothing items. Sinclair is careful to avoid asking children what they want instead of what they need.

“What does your kid do when they’re in the house and don’t have anything to do? What are their interests? I can’t ask what they want because I can’t do that. I ask what they do in their spare time,” Sinclair said.

After families collected their bagged items on Wednesday, they were also eligible to receive food donations as well. On their way out, families could grab miscellaneous items off a table for free and could also take home a bicycle and coat. Sinclair said coats that generally cost $60 are purchased for $6 in March. They’re then held until the holiday season for those in need.

Some organizations, businesses and individuals, including inmates at Houtzdale state prison, donate money, which is used to buy items for families.

“The prisoners up in the Houtzdale state prison gave me major money. I can’t tell you how many years they’ve given me $2,000. It’s the prisoners themselves and they work every day,” Sinclair said.

She went on to note that the money is used to purchase more than 150 turkeys for this year’s program. The program planned to give items to 205 families, more than 500 children and dinners for 153 families.

“I think it’s very important for the kids to go to school after the Christmas vacation and be able to say and show what they got for Christmas,” Sinclair said.

“It’s not fair for a kid to go to school and not have a new coat or not have snow boots. When they go to school after Christmas they ought to be able to say, ‘I got this for Christmas,’ instead of nothing. I think we do that.”

Bret Pallotto: 814-231-4648