Exchange Club gets help to help local children

Shawn Hardy
Bill Gouker of the Greencastle Exchange Club awaited a taste of Heather Hay's Mayham Chili last weekend during the Chilly Chili Cook Off and Holiday Open House at Mason Dixon BBQ Services. Entry fees and proceeds from tickets used to vote for favorite chilis, about $1,700, went to the club's Christmas project.

Members of the Greencastle Exchange Club are continuing a decades-long tradition of making sure Christmas is bright for local children and they’re getting help from some friends.

More than 200 Greencastle-Antrim youngsters are usually signed up to receive presents. Grace United Church of Christ helps out with 50 of them and the Exchange Club takes care of the rest, according to Cathy Nicastro, who heads up the project for the club.

Last weekend, a pair of events helped the effort: Bundle Up & Read organized by Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School fifth-graders and the Chilly Chili Cook-Off and Holiday Open House at Mason Dixon BBQ Services.

The club’s summer golf tournament is the major fundraiser and secretary Maggie Labutta recently sent letters to local churches, clubs and businesses.

For the children

The Exchange Club works through the Greencastle-Antrim Elementary and Primary schools to identify children who need gifts. All families get a letter asking if they want help.

Those that say yes are asked to fill out a wish list with categories including toys, clothes and favorites, such as teams and colors. The gift project is for elementary and primary students, but if there are older children in a family, they receive gift cards. Presents are delivered by Dec. 16.

There was a group shopping night on Dec. 6, but most club members also shop on their own, each buying for eight to 10 children.

The project is for anyone who needs help and no questions are asked. Nicastro said some families are helped every year while others face situations like a job loss.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand how much need there is in Greencastle,” Nicastro said. “It’s pretty humbling.”

Bundle Up & Read

Kids helping kids describes Bundle Up & Read. Coats and books collected at the school were sold on a donation basis on Friday, Dec. 1, during Greencastle’s Heritage Christmas celebration.

Students worked hard before the sale to get ready, according to teacher Kati McFadden.

Keith Russell was part of the public relations crew getting the word out, typing up fliers, making sure they were perfect and copying and distributing them.

“We got a lot of coats,” said Briana Cosey, who was on the coat committee, which made posters and sorted the coats by size and gender. “I enjoyed everybody working together as a team.”

“A lot of people in school wanted to help,” said Jack Lewis from the book committee. He said the project helped students “learn how to serve the community and be kind.”

His committee handled 1,453 books.

Seventy-six out of 250 fifth-graders signed up to help Friday night, greeting people at the door, selling the books and coats and serving up donated goodies like hot chocolate, cookies and candy canes, McFadden said.

Bundle Up & Read raised $725, including a $200 donation from the VFW, and will keep on giving. Coats that were not sold went to a charity in Hagerstown. Some of the remaining books will be used for the Little Free Libraries in Greencastle and the rest will be offered for free to students. Any that remain will be offered to teachers and then taken to Book Savers in Hagerstown, according to McFadden.

Chilly Chili

For the third year, members of the Exchange Club worked at the Mason-Dixon BBQ event and received proceeds from the entries fees and tickets purchased so patrons could vote for their favorite chilis.

“They are the nicest people,” Nicastro said. “It’s a really fun day and we are so appreciative.”

For more information about the Exchange Club’s Christmas project, contact Nicastro at cathyenic@hotmail.com or 717-816-0901.