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Project Happy reaches children of families in need

Cary Ashby • Dec 8, 2017 at 11:00 AM

More than 3,000 Christmas gifts could be delivered to children of families in need this season, thanks to Project Happy.

The project is part of OHGo, a volunteer, community outreach non-profit organization that started in Erie County and has expanded to Huron County. Christine Boesch, of Sandusky, and Kendra Faulkner, of Huron, co-founded OHGo in 2015.

Boesch said the mission is to “provide opportunities to families that may have difficulty accessing mainstream groups and services.”

“We are aiming to reach more people who are not currently being served,” she added.

By Dec. 15, residents may drop off wrapped totes or shoe boxes full of stocking stuffers, treats and toiletry items at all local schools, the Huron County Sheriff’s Office and Sheri’s Coffee House in Norwalk. The gifts will be delivered to children of families in need who live in Huron and Erie counties.

“You just fill it with things you think they could need or would like,” said Greenwich resident Nicole Withrow, an OHGo volunteer who brought the organization to Huron County.

“Personal hygiene for our local kids — they get excited about having toothpaste, body wash or shampoo of their own. Or lot of the kids need socks and gloves. I hate to see that our local kids need those things, but they do.”

For information on how to prepare the totes or boxes, where the Erie County drop-off locations are and to sign up as a volunteer, go the OHGo website at www.ohgoreach.org.

“The first year we delivered about 1,000 gifts. Year two we delivered close to 2,000 gifts. This year we are on track to deliver over 3,000,” Boesch said. 

Norwalk Catholic School second-graders recently assisted with Project Happy at Sheri’s Coffee House.

“Sheri’s has several gift boxes to fill with items of need for people in our community. The second-grade (class) braved the wind and cold to walk to Sherri’s to do their part,” said Amy Phillips, second-grade teacher.

Students started the project a month ago by bringing in a $1 donation to buy products to put in the boxes.

“While at Sheri’s they started with a lesson. The second-grade teachers talked to the students about giving and that even though each individual donation was small, when they are put together they can create something bigger,” Phillips said.

The second-graders purchased or donated several items, such as toothpaste, combs and wash cloths.

“They also had some fun items — Playdoh, sunglasses and cookies — and the students made reindeer Christmas cards to put in their boxes. They carefully packed all the items collected with their cards. The second-graders had a great time while doing their part to make someone else’s Christmas brighter,” Phillips said.

Withrow said she has been “speechless” at the generosity of the community and how the various drop-off sites “have reached out in every way possible.”

“This is absolutely great for our community,” she added. 

Christina Cawrse, an OHGo volunteer, approached her mother-in-law, Amy, about getting the sheriff’s office involved. Cawrse’s husband is Deputy Mitchell Cawrse, the D.A.R.E. officer for New London and South Central schools. 

“I already talked to the sheriff about doing something that benefited the community,” said Amy Cawrse, the deputy’s mother and a civil secretary at the sheriff’s office. “I thought this is awesome. I went to (Sheriff Todd Corbin) and he was more than willing to do what he could.”

Residents have dropped off wrapped presents at the station about twice a week. In addition, nearly 30 diapers have been collected at the sheriff’s office.

Normally, OHGo events incorporate about 15 volunteers, but Boesch said Project Happy is the only one so far that brings in nearly 100.

Boesch shared how she and Faulkner ended up starting OHGo.

At their respective jobs, Boesch said they saw children who weren’t able to attend free community events for various reasons, “so we decided to go to the people.” Boesch is a reading intervention specialist with Huron City Schools. Faulkner is the children’s director at Faith Memorial Church in Sandusky.

OHGo volunteers drive FedEx-style trucks so they can deliver Christmas gifts, school supplies and food to children in need, Boesch said. The organization also has a mobile food pantry and a bookmobile.

“We assist 1,000 people a month through our mobile food pantry,” Boesch said.

To find out about OHGo events and deliveries, like “OHgo” on Facebook.

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