For years, everyone in the Mount Pleasant school attendance areas knew needy families would get help at Christmas, thanks to the efforts of Betty and Larry Honeycutt.
Betty and Larry coordinated a day every December when local families, nominated by teachers at Mount Pleasant Elementary, could come to the school and get everything they needed for a wonderful Christmas: food, presents and clothes.
The Honeycutts coordinated donations from individuals, churches and civic groups, and they recruited hundreds of volunteers over the years to help with their project. It was amazing to see the elementary school filled with toys and good things to eat, and workers of all ages preparing for the big day.
But it's been a difficult year for the Honeycutts, including back surgery for Betty, which led her to decide it was time to give up the Christmas giveaway. Still, she struggled with her decision, worrying about the children and praying that someone would take over this remarkable community outreach.
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A few weeks ago, Betty was at a Mount Pleasant High School football game when she ran into Don Horn, a local resident whose son played ball with Betty's grandson. He is planting a new church in Mount Pleasant, and his fledgling congregation hoped to help Betty and Larry with the Christmas giveaway.
Betty figured this was the answer to her prayers, Don agreed, and a new tradition was born: The Betty and Larry Honeycutt Toy Drive.
Here's how it will work: Don Horn's church, called Revolution Church, is sponsoring an event called "A Hometown Christmas." Their plan is to have the event every year, inviting the entire community for hot chocolate and a movie (this year, "A Charlie Brown Christmas"). The toy drive will be a part of the "Hometown Christmas" celebration.
This year, "A Hometown Christmas" will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 18 at Mount Pleasant Middle School. The church is asking the community to donate new or very gently used unwrapped toys. They will be given to Mount Pleasant Elementary School children whom counselors identify as needing assistance.
Horn is excited about this opportunity to give back to a community he's come to love. Since he and his family moved to Mount Pleasant in 2002, Don has left the corporate world to attend seminary. He now is answering the call to plant a new church in Mount Pleasant.
He's working with about 40 people to start the church, hoping to begin services in April. You can learn more about them at their still-under-construction website: www.revolutionchurchmp.org. You can also use the website to send an e-mail to Don Horn if you'd like more information about the Betty and Larry Honeycutt Toy Drive.
While it's sad to see one tradition come to an end, it's heartwarming to see another take its place. Since the end result is that children have a happy holiday, it's all good.