Mark Wardlow Explains How Funds Directly Helped Locals, Thanks Community For Record Year
Darren Doyle, story:
The work done by local charity Santa's Helping Hands, INC., has more impact each year with more funds raised, more causes helped, and more Edmonson County families receiving assistance than ever before, and 2021 broke all sorts of records for the non-profit.
With $73,000 raised in one day alone, which was at the annual SHH Auction held in November, the group continues to find ways to genuinely make a difference in the wallets of local families that need just that--a helping hand.
Board member and co-founder Mark Wardlow says he feels it's important to be transparent with everyone since so many donate and help with the mission of SHH.
"To say 2021 was a good year for Santa’s Helping Hands INC. is a understatement," Wardlow said. "This is not just a holiday charity, but what many don't realize is that we assist county residents year around. We help families that have sicknesses, need food, beds, clothing, heaters, and of course, those that need help at Christmas."
This year's fundraising began with another successful golf tournament, and Wardlow credited all the sponsors and teams that made the event possible. While that got new funds rolling, the annual auction simply blew everyone away.
"Our 2021 auction showed just how much this community will come together," he said. "We try our best to have unique and special items that you don’t see at other benefit auctions and we try to make it a fun event to attend, this is helped out by our comical but also serious auctioneers Ricky Keith & Jake Keith who have been doing this for the last 17 years, along with Hunter Ashley who has volunteered his services the last couple of years."
The auction had a record turnout of bidders along with a much higher total of auction items from which to choose.
"When the auction was complete we had raised over $73,000 in only a 5 hour span, in a county that doesn’t even have a traffic light."
Wardlow wanted to thank ECHS Principal Jonathan Williams and Superintendent Brian Alexander for allowing the gym to be the new home for the annual auction, which provides the group more space and much better seating and accommodations.
Photo slideshow of holiday shopping event:
"We love when our kids are involved and would like to thank the ECHS boy basketball team for helping unload and setup auction items, the ECHS girls basketball team for helping us shop, and the ECHS boys baseball them helping us unload all the bags after our big shopping day," he said.
That shopping day also broke a record, with over 85 community residents showing up to help with the shopping at Walmart on Morgantown Road.
"Walmart gave us the whole garden center to check out, and provided drinks, coffee, cookies, and snacks for all our shoppers," Wardlow added. "When that single shopping day was over we spent over $37,000 at Walmart. And even though we made several trips to Walmart, this day was by far our biggest trip. People ask why we use the Walmart on Morgantown Road and the simple answer is this: we have been with them for 17 years now and when we started this in 2005 they were one of the few retailers, including K-Mart and Target, in our area willing to donate to our cause. Every year they have given us a $2,000 grant which we use to buy auction items or deposit. It's also the same reason we use Shoe Carnival, as we started with them 17 years ago because they were willing to give us huge discounts on shoes. Jason and Keith at Shoe Carnival work with us throughout the year and work with their corporate office to make sure our discounts stay in place."
Wardlow also said SHH is thankful to have such a great relationship with the Edmonson County school system and the FRC, Community Action, and Lifeskills that reach out when a family or child needs help, regardless of the time of year.
"We would like to thank every person or business that donated money, items for auction, bought raffle tickets, volunteered their time, or anything you did to help our cause," he added. "Also, it's not just one person that runs Santa’s Helping Hands, it takes a family of volunteers. Most everything we do is discussed and voted on by our board which consist of Jeff Rich, Mark Rich, Renee Rich, Scott Lindsey, Greg Nugent, Lynette Saling, along with myself and my wife, Lorie Wardlow.
He said they helped their first family of 2021 back in January and it went from there, which included $6,842.10 for county residents that aided in house fires, food, beds, clothing, shoes, heaters and household items needs, in addition to seven different families that dealt with severe sicknesses, like transplants, chemo trips, severe infections, premature births, etc.
"With the family sicknesses, we give gas cards for travel to and from hospitals for chemo, treatments, and visits, and we also give fast food cards for whatever chain is located in or close to hospital, and other food gift certificates."
SHH also spent $6,724.33 at Shoe Carnival that benefited local families with footwear needs.
A total of $48,521.44 was spent during the Christmas season at Walmart, and SHH works directly with FRC in local schools, Community Action of Brownsville, Lifeskills, Edmonson County Head Start, Adult Day Care, and Edmonson Health Center with lists of specific needs from participants in those respective organizations and programs.
"If anyone ever has questions about our charity, whether it's how to donate, ideas about fundraising, or another area where we can help, or if someone else wants to help, please contact any of our board members. Our goal is continue helping Edmonson County families and we want to help more in 2022."