By Josette Keelor
A Facebook group Kimberly Knight started at Thanksgiving now has over 500 members signed up to help spread the wealth this holiday season.
In previous years she's adopted families for Christmas, but this year, after learning of the community's need, she wanted to try something bigger.
"That's a part of why I started it too, because I never really knew," she said. "I do it for the kids."
Doing much of the work herself, Knight buys items for families recommended by area schools, but she also encourages others to lend a helping hand. She accepts food, clothing, toys and other items at her Strasburg home but said she doesn't collect money.
"People can see what I can do by myself," she said. "Can you imagine what I can do if 10 other people help or whatever? Ten other families can not worry about Christmas."
She said her idea started last month when she adopted a family for Thanksgiving and began researching how many area families would struggle for funds this holiday season.
"I've been there. I was a single mom," she said. "I know how hard it is. I can imagine how they feel."
Anticipating the upcoming holiday break, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Strasburg was preparing for families to stop by on Friday and pick up food collected through Knight's group, A Helping Hand, said Principal Robin Shrum.
Signal Knob Middle School's assistant principal Mandy Roller said the school welcomes nonprofit organizations and explained, "it helps out tremendously."
"There do seem to be more families that are struggling to make ends meet," Roller said.
The school already was working with the Luke's Backpack Program, a community ministry out of Toms Brook sponsored by Shenandoah Valley Lutheran Ministries in partnership with Shenandoah County Public Schools, to send food home on Fridays with participating students.
This is the first year the school has received help from A Helping Hand, and Roller said, "I think it's a fabulous idea. I think that there are more struggling families in our area than we realize and it's a very generous and kind way to help our neighbors."
Throughout the month Knight has posted requests on Facebook for toys, clothes and blankets for children of all ages. She's also accepted or purchased shower and bathroom items, electronics, nonperishable food, Christmas trees and holiday decorations.
"I have done most of this but I have had help from others," she said. "The canned food was all everybody else."
Facebook group members rallied around a Tuesday post Knight made asking for toys and blankets for several children.
"If you can help with any of this, please let me know," she wrote. "This will fill the needs & wants of all 23 kids."
Knight said currently she's helping 31 children from Strasburg and Front Royal and still might pick up a few more if she hears back from messages she's left at other schools. She said she'll collect items through Sunday so she can make deliveries Monday.
Helping others has been a family tradition that she credits to her father, who "always wanted to bring gifts to the families. This is how I learned this," she said.
She was a teenager when her father adopted twins for Christmas, "and I remember the look on the mom's face when he showed up," Knight said.
"I just know that there's kids out there that the only thing that they want is to wake up Christmas morning and to know that Santa came."
For more information about A Helping Hand, visit Facebook at facebook.com/groups/694186040599773. For information about Luke's Backpack, contact P.O. Box 132, Toms Brook, VA 22660.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org