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Christmas in the Park ends on positive note

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

Despite challenging weather, reduced fundraising time and escalating need for aid elsewhere in the region, Paducah Power System reported a successful season of holiday giving.

The annual lighting display that illuminates Noble Park from Thanksgiving to early January raised 24,820 pounds of canned goods and non-perishable food items. Christmas in the Park is done in conjunction with two December events: Stuff the Truck at Lourdes Hospital and Baptist Health Paducah, which raised 10,650 pounds, and the School Challenge, a competition among 11 area schools which raised 15,135 pounds.

The grand total was 50,065 pounds and $37,500 in monetary donations. The amount of cash given was the second largest in the 17 years of Christmas in the Park, according to Andrea Underwood, director of community relations for Paducah Power System.

"The community really dug deep this year and that speaks so well of our region," she said. "So many hands were involved in this process, from the volunteers at Santa's House to students to hospital employees."

She said this year brought many challenges following a relatively easy 2012 with wintry weather decreasing the number of visitors and fundraising days. Although the donated food decreased from 69,000 pounds in 2012, the amount of money helped to balance the scales, according to Underwood.

"Our community turned out to support us despite all the obstacles," she said. "We were pleasantly surprised because last year was so tough economically."

The nutritional items and monetary donations will be split among the Paducah Corporative Ministry, the Family Service Society and the Salvation Army in Paducah. The organizations should receive the supplies by the end of January and some of the donated money will be used for heating assistance, she said.

Pam Truitt, executive director of the Family Service Society, said the yearly donated goods that typically last until May provide the organization with a valuable stockpile of resources and piece of mind that shelves will remain full.

"We thank anyone who donated their time or resources because this is what gets us through the biggest part of our year," she said. "All the work and effort we use to keep stocked up can focus on other programs."

Truitt said last year brought record need with the organization serving many more residents than previous years. The influx of items from the Paducah Power System drives will help ease nervousness about handling a continuation in the increased level of demand for resources.

"You get scared at times when serving large numbers, where the food is going to come from," she said. "This is a blessing. The community is so generous. When people are in need, others always want to help."

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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