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Benefit will give gift of hope

With a little help from Big Sandy Superstores, Atlantic Star Communications, Sharon Baptist Church, the City of Ironton and Ironton schools, that’s exactly what the town is doing from 1 to 4 p.

Friday, December 17, 1999

With a little help from Big Sandy Superstores, Atlantic Star Communications, Sharon Baptist Church, the City of Ironton and Ironton schools, that’s exactly what the town is doing from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Ironton High School gymnasium – all to ease the holiday pressure on local plant workers without jobs or facing that future.

Cabletron’s shutdown early this year left about 400 people without work. This month, Intermet’s decision to close its foundry will mean about 600 people in the unemployment line by February.

And, officials estimate at least 2,000 children will feel the effects of the plant closings, too.

"I got to thinking a week ago about parents having to cope with a lot of pressure, about losing their job and having Christmas for their kids," Big Sandy Superstores chairman Robert Vanhoose said.

"It kind of struck a cord and I thought I’d like to give some encouragement and let them know there are people thinking of them this time of year."

Big Sandy is lending monetary support. The mayor’s office is coordinating the event. The church has donated volunteer labor. Atlantic Star will provide entertainment – local singers and performing groups.

About $30,000 worth of donated gifts, including gift certificates from the Huntington, W.Va., Mall, will be handed out at the party, which should draw about 3,000 people, Vanhoose said.

Adults will be eligible to win door prizes, including a recliner and VCR from Big Sandy.

"People should come out even just to let them know we’re thinking of them, and we want to have a time of prayer and ask for God’s intervention in their situation and give them a special blessing," he said.

Organizations, residents and others are bringing presents, and manpower, too.

"We just want to give these folks some hope," said Steve Harvey, pastor of Sharon Baptist, where at least 50 of the congregation have volunteered.

The church is doing a lot of legwork, wrapping gifts and hosting the 10-minute prayer program at the beginning of the party.

When there’s a need, Ironton rallies, Harvey said.

"And we just see it’s right, with the labor situation the way it is, to be a source of encouragement to people that there is a blessed hope," he said.

Akers said he found out about the party Tuesday night, from a poster he saw as he left the plant.

And that put some cheer into the hearts of the workers, he said.

"I think it’s pretty nice, and we really appreciate the thoughts of all the people," he added. "This is a good place to live You wouldn’t see this in a large city."

Residents who want to donate for the party, can contact the Ironton mayor’s office at 532-3833.

Of most need are new toys suitable for children 6 and under, Vanhoose said.

"This is a massive undertaking to be accomplished in one week’s time, but Christmas is the season for miracles," he said.