Category Archive Holiday

ByG.O. Community Development Corporation

G.O. Development brings Christmas joy to area families

Reading Time: 2 minutes

ASHTABULA — Christmas is a little brighter for many area families struggling to make ends meet thanks to the hard work of G.O. Development Corp.

The organization has been providing food and Christmas presents to those in need in Ashtabula County for more than 20 years.

“We’ve been working throughout the year. You can’t do this overnight,” said Frances Norman, director of operations for the organization.

She said she usually starts shopping in early January when Christmas and winter items go on sale.

“We can get coats for almost half off,” she said.

Drew Thomas, president of G.O. Development Corp., said children were allowed to pick one gift, $50 or under, and families received a variety of food to make the holiday season a bit brighter.

Norman said the group cross checks applicants with Catholic Charities and Asa’s Angels to make sure people aren’t double dipping for gifts.

“There is so much need out there,” she said.

The families arrived by 9 a.m. for the 11 a.m. start to the gift collection process, organizers said.

Charlie Lawson, 5, of Conneaut was excited about the big event and excitedly peeked his head through a door looking for Santa and his presents.

“This is amazing. This is the biggest blessing we have for all the families,” said Charlie’s mother, Jamie Lawson.

Thomas said different volunteers help put the big day together and Carol Hunter focuses on the purchase of presents.

“It has been over 10 years. I just like doing it,” she said.

Norman said a local person made blankets for families. A variety of Christmas decorations and figurines also were available.

Each of the more than 00 children had their name on a bag with their presents inside and volunteers matched the bag with the child.

Santa Claus and the Grinch also made appearances at the event.

The party used to include singing, music groups with hundreds of people eating a meal together.

Thomas said he hopes the organization will be able to have a large group event, but have held off because of COVID-19, which is still affecting area residents.

“Hopefully we can do something next year,” he said.

ByG.O. Community Development Corporation

Volunteers make Thanksgiving brighter for many

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Volunteers took time from their Thanksgiving holiday to reach out to others before heading home for their own time with family.

G.O. Development Corp. volunteers spent much of the week preparing food and then arrived early Thursday morning to package it up for 450 people throughout the area, said G.O.D.C. President Drew Thomas. He said 380 meals were delivered and 70 picked up at the Station Avenue headquarters.

Thomas said 28 volunteers were involved in the process.

“This is my first time [volunteering]. It was fun it feels good to do it,” said Cathy Marcy, of Kingsville Township, who helped sort the meals for distribution.

The volunteers disbursed from Station Avenue to individual homes throughout the community and to Ashtabula Towers, Gulfview Towers and Lakeview Towers.

“It means a lot. I have something to eat,” said a thankful Steven Radwancky at Ashtabula Towers.

Down the road at Gulfview Towers Pam Deary was also glad for a meal she didn’t have to prepare.

“My husband is passed and the kids are down in Dorset. No reason to make a turkey for myself,” she said.


ByG.O. Community Development Corporation

G.O. Development Corp. hosts four-day Christmas event

Reading Time: 2 minutes

ASHTABULA — Children won’t get a chance to belt out Christmas tunes from the G.O. Development Corp. stage this year, but presents will be under the tree.

“I am so blessed. It is very helpful,” said Jessica Thompson as she picked presents for her children on Friday morning at the Station Avenue center.

She said the kids were  a little upset they weren’t going to be able to gather with everyone and meet Santa Claus, but she explained the situation and how the pandemic has changed so much.

Volunteers and staff at G.O. Development have been working on the Christmas program since October, said director Francis Norman.

“These are my elves,” Norman said of Carol Hunter and Debbie Hill, who have been working five days a week since October to get the presents ready for the children.

Norman said the pair wrapped an estimated 1,000 gifts and were still working on some on Friday morning. She said the gifts were donated by a many people and churches.

“[The donors] just did it. The community has been so generous,” she said.Norman said there is a “Secret Santa” who bought three car loads of gifts for children.

“I don’t even know her name,” Norman said. The lengthy planning helped make the four-day event a little less chaotic than having 500-600 people in a gymnasium, Norman said. She said Friday marked the beginning of gift pick-up.

“We are doing [appointments] every 10 minutes,” she said.More than 425 children are scheduled to receive gifts by Tuesday evening, Norman said. 

She said the pick up system allows fewer people to have personal contact during the pandemic.

Each child is scheduled to receive two to three gifts, a candy bag and the family will get a bag of groceries, Norman said. She said hats and gloves were also a part of the process.

“It’s different,” Norman said of the process. She said it was running smoothly on Friday morning.

“It is nice to have the kids party but this is easier and faster,” Norman said.

A large number of families are scheduled for gift pick-up today. She said several Youth Opportunity workers will be on hand today to assist in taking the food and groceries to the car.

Brittany Chambers volunteered her time on Saturday morning along with Olajuwon Smith who also created a computer spread sheet to help organize the recipients.

Chambers said she volunteers in memory of her mother Valerie Chambers who assisted G.O. Development Corp.

“When she passed, we kept it [going],” Chambers said.

ByG.O. Community Development Corporation

Hundreds celebrate Christmas together at G.O. Development Corp.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

ASHTABULA — Children ran to the stage of G.O. Development Corp. on Saturday afternoon to try their dance steps and celebrate the Christmas season.

The 24th edition of the event included more than 430 children, said G.O. Development Corp. Board President Drew Thomas.

“We had 437 kids signed up,” he said.“They all will go home with three presents and the family with a garbage bag filled with groceries,” Thomas said before receiving a gift from the board for all his work.

“A lot of this would not be possible without Drew Thomas and his family,” said organization co-founder John Salters before making the presentation.Hundreds of people ate a free lunch, sang with the music led by Isaiah Salters and talked with friends.

Isaiah Salters got the party rolling with music and games keeping the children active and interested. He credited the children for the break dancing.“They did a great job,” he said.

Another group of children had the opportunity to create a Christmas dance to perform with a song. He had the crowd pick the winner, but gave prizes to all of the contestants.John Salters said there were 50 to 60 volunteers that made the party a reality. The parking lot at the facility was packed during the height of the party.

The area in front of the gym’s stage was the place to be as children tried to get as close to the performers as possible with parents not far behind.

Santa also spent several hours taking pictures with children at the event that is the highlight of many area families’ Christmas experience.

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