By James R. Campbell
Nevada Daily Mail
Christmas is the time of year when young people may feel rejected if it seems that everyone but them is reaping a full share of holiday bounty.
The purpose of the Nevada Lions Club's Teen Angel project for teenagers from local families that are facing financial hardship is to be sure they know the town loves them just as much as their peers who have more advantages.
Attending to 13- to 18-year-olds, while other programs provide gifts for younger kids, the Teen Angels project has touched the hearts of Nevadans since it was founded in the mid-2000s.
"We know some of the families and other times families hear about it and come in," said Community Outreach Director Barbara Long, Wednesday.
Community Outreach screens applicants for the annual gift-giving program.
"We're helping kids who might not get any gifts because if they look around and see other kids getting things, that could make them feel very down and left out. The goal is to make them feel loved in our community," Long said.
Long provides the names of eligible recipients, determined by income guidelines and other information, to Lions Teen Angel chairman Corey Johnson at CMJ Financial Center, which distributes cards telling each teen's Christmas wishes and wintertime needs to people who "adopt" them, go shopping and take the unwrapped gifts to CMJ.
"The Vernon County Ambulance District takes care of the community toy drive for kids up to 12, the Salvation Army buys hams and we provide other stuff for food baskets," Long said. "The First Christian Church has its own giveaway and the Elks Lodge delivers food baskets.
"Different grades give different foods and the Nevada High School Student Council helps distribute. We're all into it."
Johnson said supporters gave $20,000 in gifts and cash last year for 148 teens. He said adoptions will continue at his 117 E. Cherry St. office through 4:30 p.m., Dec. 14, for the gifts to be given from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 18 at the National Guard Armory.
The Vernon County Ambulance District's community toy drive also culminates there that day.
"We got started five or six years ago because the younger kids were always taken care of, but the teens were left out," said Johnson, who may be reached at (417) 549-9832.
"We are specific in the things we do. They get things like hats, gloves, pants and sports jerseys. Dr. Ron Schowengerdt gives toothpaste, floss and toothbrushes and Cavener's Office Supplies a discount on school supplies because the kids need to be resupplied at the first of the year.
"The Spalon gave free haircuts last year and it was the first haircut some of the kids had had in four or five years. One girl's hair was down to just above her waist."
Johnson said Wednes-day that the feedback he hears confirms the project is well worth the effort and expense. "I talked to several kids after the fact last year, and they said the only presents they got were from Teen Angels," he said.
"Their families are fairly poor, so they're delighted to be able to experience Christmas. Monetary contributions are always accepted. The more money we get, the better we can make these bags. We only ask for $25 to $35, but we had so many donations last year that every bag had $140 worth of stuff in it."