“It feels good to see all these kids and the community coming in to celebrate the birth of Christ,” Salters said.
For 23 years Salters, and many volunteers, have worked together to make a special Christmas a reality for families in Ashtabula and beyond. The event was at the organization’s headquarters on Station Avenue in the old Thurgood Marshall Elementary School.
Salters said with all the tragedy in the world and locally, taking a time to remember the importance of Christmas is important. “This is one time we get to celebrate,” he said.
“We have 330 kids signed up,” said Drew Thomas, president of the G.O. Development Corporation. He said there were 30 more children signed up this year compared to last year.
“We had a great response from the community donating presents and toys,” Thomas said.
“Everybody will be receiving approximately three gifts,” Thomas said. He said the gifts were from infants to 16 years of age.
Thomas said an estimated 650 people came to the event and received a free meal. “All of them got a hot lunch today,” he said.
“All the families will go home with a box of food,” he said. Thomas said G.O. Soup Kitchen serves 300 meals a week Monday through Friday.
Thomas said people came from all over Ashtabula County, but most are from Ashtabula. He said some come from Geneva and Conneaut as well.
Salters detailed the importance of remembering the fact that Jesus is the “gift God gave us.” He led a rousing rendition of “I love Jesus yes I do. I love Jesus how about you?”
Salter’s son, Isaiah, then took over the stage and continued the holiday fun with more Christmas carols and the introduction of Santa and Mrs. Claus. He also explained the benefits of his “Ugly Christmas Sweater.”
When the audience didn’t respond to invitations to sing louder Isaiah Salter wasn’t afraid of using the sweater as a motivator. “I put this sweater on, you better sing,” he said.
He also reminded the children of how fortunate Santa was able to make the event. “You know how hard it is to get Santa Claus three days before Christmas?,” he said.
Isaiah Salters also reminded those in attendance how fortunate they are to have such a nice facility to gather so many people. “I remember doing the Christmas party back on Cleveland Avenue. It was rough,” he said.