Grahn, Kentucky is almost six hours away from Chardon, Ohio, but the towns are forever connected in heart. In 1994, a small group of Grahn’s hard-working community members got together and purchased an old school building, which would eventually become the Grahn School Community Center. Centered in Appalachia, the community has great needs that the local social service agencies are not able to meet. With the support of local churches and outside donors, the center opened to help provide educational and emergency services to the surrounding counties. Around the same time, St. Mary School paired with the center to provide toys for nearly 100 families in need each year at Christmas.
New and gently used toys that are collected at St. Mary School & Parish through early December each year and are delivered to a happy and grateful community. While many were snowed in and sleeping through Chardon’s first big blizzard of the season the St. Mary elf delivery crewed headed out to Grahn, KY. After delivery, St. Mary volunteers stay to help unpack and sort the toys in the gymnasium in preparation for selection day. Grahn parents, without their children, are then invited in the Saturday before Christmas to shop. Each family is allotted 2 toys per child, if there are enough available. The community center volunteers then help wrap the presents, and also send them home with new shoes, 2 weeks worth of groceries and toiletries; all donated from outside agencies.
This year St. Mary School worked in connection with the Ohio Catholic Credit Union to raise cash funds to provide to the center for additional needs. Each student was given $5.00 from the credit union and challenged to do something to raise their own $5.00 matching donation. St. Mary students met and exceeded the challenge from the Catholic Credit Union presenting a check for $1,220.00 for the community center. Student volunteer, Hannah Passow said, “It’s better to have a Christmas with toys, so I’m glad I helped”.
Despite their great need, the people of Grahn and the community center continue to have a joyful Christmas spirit and hope for the New Year. The Grahn School Community Center does not receive any tax funding or other forms of monetary support from the government. They are totally self-funded and depend on donations to keep the center open. In fact, each year they need to close their doors for at least a month in the winter because they cannot afford to heat the building.
Through the “Toys for Appalachia” program at St. Mary School, students and families have the ability to give to those who are truly in need. In return they receive the gift of knowing that their strong school community provides hope and happiness to others year after year. Although separated by many miles, the children of both Grahn and St. Mary School will be celebrating together on Christmas.
About St. Mary School
St. Mary’s School Chardon is a Catholic School for grades preschool through 8 where students are encouraged to develop academically in an environment of faith, with a vision for the future. For information: St. Mary School Chardon or Contact: [email protected] or Phone: 440-286-3590
Pictured In Photo: St. Mary families present Starlene Davis, director of the Grahn Community Center with a check during their annual toy delivery: From Left to Right : Hannah Passow, Starlene Davis, Brian Intihar, Faye Hoey, Andrew Passow, Elizabeth Passow, Molly Passow, Aiden Passow, Brian Passow, and Charlie Intihar
Pictured In Photo from Left to Right: Mr. Windsor from the Ohio Catholic Credit Union presented matching funds to St. Mary School for the Toys for Appalachia drive and to help the Grahn Community Center. Aiden Passow, Hannah Passow, Kara Passow, Elizabeth Passow, Mr. Windsor, Molly Passow, Cody Svoboda, and Ellie Faber.