A Caring Angel oversees Marianna outreach center
Christmas, in some places, isn’t necessarily the most wonderful time of the year.“Some kids don’t have any Christmas gifts,” Launa Post said. “Some have never even had a birthday card or a cake.“Post is the project manager for Audia Caring Heritage Association, a Washington-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life in communities in need. The organization, formed in 2000, has been a staunch supporter of the Washington chapter of CASA for Kids, providing Christmas gifts to adjudicated and foster youths through its Holiday Caring Angel Program.Now Audia is reaching out to an outreach. This year, for the first time, the Caring Angel program will distribute holiday gifts to children and youth at Marianna Christian Outreach. The center operates in a building on Main Street in the former coal town, which has struggled since a fire forced permanent closure of Marianna Mine in 1988.Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glyde runs the outreach center, which relies on donations and the work of volunteers. It accepts donations of clothing, furniture and household items, which are distributed from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday and Saturday year-round. About 250 families - more than 500 people - have signed up for the Christmas distributions.During the holiday season, local resident Janet Rohanna makes pillows and blankets from bolts of fabric donated to the center.Marianna Christian Outreach was formed in the mid-1990s and primarily serves residents of southeastern Washington and northeastern Greene counties. An estimated 80 to 120 people are served each week, according to the website bethlehem1791.com/what-we-do/marianna-outreach/Audia is lending a powerful hand. Post said the association selects a new group every year for its Caring Angel program, usually an organization with which it has worked. Over the past two years, Audia did a much-needed renovation of the outreach building. Workers not only overhauled a restroom, they installed industrial shelving to make storage and sorting of donations more convenient.“We’re in an old commercial building that was not in the greatest shape and not outfitted for what we were doing,” said Pat O’Brien, a Bethlehem congregation member. He is an active volunteer at the outreach center along with his wife, Chris, and their pastor, the Rev. Peter Asplin.“Audia saw we had a significant need,” O’Brien, a top executive at Community Bank, said during a mini-tour of the facility. “They put in this heavy-duty shelving where we can stack boxes and keeps things in order. We also had a very small bathroom that was in bad condition. Audia Caring got workers and materials and redid the bathroom with proper plumbing. They also made it large enough where people can try on clothing.“That room, Post said, “was worse than any Port-A-John. And they were using it as a dressing room as well as a restroom.“The center now has Caring Angel, a program that will provide 68 teenage boys with gifts this season. The gifts, in many instances, will be gift cards.“It’s really difficult to buy gifts for teenage boys,” Post said. “They want something expensive, often electronics. So we buy $15 gift cards for Walmart.“Founded by Albert Andy, now its president, Audia Caring Heritage Association has been proactive in its mission. It has provided backpacks with school supplies for CASA youths, victims of abuse and neglect; sweatsuits to abused women and children in the Zonta Club of Washington County; and, following a recent fundraiser, donated 30 iPads to Children’s Therapy Center at Washington Health System.That isn’t all.“We had a young man who was going to be the first in his family to graduate from high school, but he didn’t have the financial resources to purchase clothes for graduation,” Post said. “So we bought appropriate black shoes and clothes so he could graduate with pride.“CASA, an acronym for Court-Appointed Special Advocates, has teamed with Audia for a number of years. Vivian Osowski, CASA’s executive director, has a keen appreciation of the Caring Angel program.“They’ve been kind enough to do specific gifts for CASA kids,” Osowski said, adding that her organization’s goal is to “place children in a safe-forever home.”“When the wish list goes to Audia, Audia gives a gift particular to that child. It’s a nice, personalized way to do it. Support from Audia and churches strengthens our communities on all levels.“Marianna is experiencing that.