The Ottumwa Courier

December 12, 2013

Party time for needy children

By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Possibly the greatest joy for any child during Christmas is getting presents. But for some, presents aren’t part of their holidays.

At the Workingman’s Christmas Party, to be held this year at 7 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Eagles Club in Ottumwa, volunteers make it their goal to make sure all of the children in Wapello County can feel the joy of opening a present, and they have been successful enough to keep the annual party going for decades.

Marie Ogden, 83, has been in charge of the Workingman’s Christmas Party Committee since, at her best guess, 1999, although she and her family have been helping with it for 51 years. She couldn’t place the exact year when the party started, though her best estimate is somewhere around 1947.

Since then, children who are in need of at least one present during Christmas are getting their wish. They are also getting candy, nuts and fruits to go with their gifts.

On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the volunteers will start helping to put together the gift bags for all of the children, which looks somewhat like an assembly line, according to Ogden. In each, they place candy, nuts, oranges, apples and a new gift, which were purchased thanks to donations from local businesses and individuals.

“We appreciate all of the donations we get from everyone,” Ogden said. “Without them we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

After all of the gift bags are assembled, the leftover nuts, candy and fruit are taken to various shelters and nursing homes in the area, Ogden said. Then, on Friday, parents either come by themselves or bring their children to the special short program, with Mr. Claus himself making an appearance.

“It isn’t anything fancy or exciting, just something for the kids,” Ogden said.

Although getting a gift for the children undoubtedly helps out their parents with gift buying, Ogden said the event is truly about the kids. Even though she and her husband, who are 83- and 85-years-old, spend a lot of time and effort on the party every year, she says it is totally worth it.

“It has been a long time, but I don’t regret one second that we have spent doing this,” she said. “We don’t do it for the adults and we don’t do it for praise. We do it because we love kids.”

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh