To the editor:

Project Share 2018, the holiday assistance program at Hastings Family Service, is behind us, but I think back to the amazing whirlwind of activity and generosity that made it possible. Hundreds of volunteer hours go into packing the food, stocking the freezers with turkeys and hams (444 turkeys and 240 hams were donated by Treasure lsland Resort and Casino), stocking the HFS North Pole with hundreds of gifts and filling the warehouse with Adopt-a-Family gifts for 175 families.

Unsure of what their holiday would be like, 379 different families and 30 men and women from the Cochran Recovery Services walked into HFS and left with wrapped gifts, everything they needed to put on a wonderful holiday dinner, and some even left with Christmas trees.

On our final day of distribution, I walked into the HFS North Pole where three families were shopping. We had just received another large gift tree donation that included two bikes. One of the families was loading up the bikes and the excitement in their voices and the expression on their faces is etched in my heart and mind.

It is amazing to see the synergy amongst the 50 additional Project Share volunteers; many were strangers when they came in the building and friends when they left. Many smiled and told me this is the best part of their holiday tradition. The neighbors served cry and proclaim, "This is more than I ever could have imagined!"

One woman told us about the year that she needed help with her family's gifts and groceries.

"That was the most difficult thing I ever had to do, but HFS made the experience so welcoming that I went home feeling OK," she said.

This year, she made a $200 donation to HFS for Project Share and handed it over as she wept with the thought of paying it forward.

Project Share is an amazing program because of the tireless help and selfless acts of kindness from a community that supports Hastings Family Service so generously. On behalf of the nearly 400 families touched by Project Share this holiday season, thank you for being involved in whatever way was possible for you.

Chris Koop

Hastings

Chris Koop is the executive director at Hastings Family Service