CARTHAGE, Mo. —
More than 800 Carthage children celebrated Christmas on Saturday with members of the Carthage Police Department.
Thanks to several groups of volunteers, including the Carthage police and fire departments, each child attending the 38th annual Laverne Williams Children’s Christmas Party at Memorial Hall received a grab bag with various gifts and stuffed animals along with candy and juice boxes.
Carthage resident Patricia Nuessle said the generosity of the people involved with putting on the event was a reflection on the Carthage community.
“It is great to be in a community willing to help, especially to someone without an income,” Nuessle said. “Today is about people together, celebrating, and everyone in the city looks forward to this each year. It is the best side of the holiday season.”
The party is named for Carthage police Detective Laverne Williams, who organized the party for local children in need. Williams was the main force in securing donations and other gifts for the event, before ill health forced him to retire. He died in 2009, but his legacy lives on in the annual Christmas celebration.
Police Capt. Bill Hawkins organized this year’s event, which included sending out invitations to 1,140 local youngsters.
“I had the privilege of working with Laverne for 25 years, and as a result, I am contributing to continuing his legacy, which is very rewarding,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the Police Department kept a close eye on the weather Friday as a storm system dropped more than a quarter-inch of ice in the area.
“I can’t remember ever having this event canceled, and I was real nervous that this was the year,” he said.
Hawkins said all of the presents were secured by donations and fundraising.
“This is so many people working together to make this happen, and it runs on donations and our volunteers,” he said. “We wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for them.”
Those volunteers included members of the Carthage Junior High School student council. Gracie Fagg, along with 25 members of the council, spent Friday and Saturday preparing for the party.
“We set up last night, and we were back early today to assist anywhere we can,” Fagg said. “We’re already out of school, but this was a fun way to start our vacation.”
CHILDREN WERE TREATED to a musical performance from the Duke Mason Band and pictures with Santa Claus before a raffle was held to give away gifts that included bikes, video games and stuffed animals.