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Giving through…. Hooktown Holidays

A year-round charity grown from a neighborhood, to a community, to the county

Photo submitted to Times Observer “Hooktown Holidays mission is: to provide nutritious food, warm clothing, and other necessities of life for the children of Warren County and families in need.” That mission is on its website at http://www.hooktownholidays.org/, its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HooktownHolidays/, and also on its calling card, along with a “Thank You” icon image (above) drawn by Jahzara Hunter and submitted for use by Hooktown Holidays with permission from her grandmother, Sally Hunter.

Hooktown Holidays is still a pleasant surprise for many people in Warren County.

Terry Pearson would like to change that.

It’s to the point, someone recently called Terry about Hooktown Holidays and when he answered, they said, why do you say, “hello, this is Terry?

“Why don’t you say, ‘Hello, this is Hooktown Holidays, Terry speaking?'”

It’s little things like this that show how big Hooktown Holidays is becoming.

Pearson said there are still people that don’t know what Hooktown Holidays is.

The name itself is a bit misleading.

Hooktown is the nickname of the neighborhood Terry and his wife, Betty Jo, are from. Holidays would lead you to believe this is some type of gift-giving event.

Both are wrong.

“It was founded in a neighborhood, moved into the community, and now the county,” said Pearson. “The agencies we serve are far-reaching. We’re now in your community, too.”

The term Holidays is misleading because funds collected used to be distributed exclusively at Christmas time. That has also evolved.

“We’re not a holiday, gift-giving event,” said Pearson. “We’re a charity.”

And much bigger than some people know. So, just how much has this Warren County charity evolved… and stayed the same?

“In February of 2013, out of the blue, I say to Betty Jo, my wife, what do you think if we just put some money away every week, and whatever we end up with, we’ll try to help a family?”

That started with $2 a week per each member of the family, including the family dog, Rachel.

“We thought, we would cash out in November, to be able to shop for a family.”

Seems simple enough.

Don’t let Terry fool ya, he wasn’t going to stop there…

“If we make it easy, maybe a few other people (our neighbors) would go in with us, too,” he said.

“Then once I got a taste for it, I thought maybe the neighbor next to him would do it, too,” said Pearson.

What was this simple idea, of giving one on one to a needy family raised $700 that first year.

Seems simple enough… but who to give it to?

“p1″>”I wanted to make it as comfortable for the recipient as possible,” he said, “because if you’re in need, frankly, you don’t want to go public with it…  you don’t ask.”

With that, Pearson and others decided that the money would best be served administered by the service groups in the area trained to distribute funds to those in need.

By the second year, Hooktown Holidays raised $5,000, and had a place for people to take the money, Off the Beaten Path, an antiques store owned by Jerry Del Balso.

It wasn’t kept in a sock, but rather in a personal account at Northwest Savings Bank.

“By this time we had a mission statement because you’ve got to tell people what you’re doing,” said Pearson. “Our mission: to provide nutrition, clothing, and life necessities to children and the families in need.”

Of that $5,000, $1,250 each was donated to four agencies; the Economic Opportunities Council (EOC) for heating assistance; St. Joseph soup kitchen; Area Agency on Aging; and the BackPack Program, which provided nutritious weekend meals for needy students.

“From the very beginning, these agencies had to disperse our funds in conjunction with our mission statement,” said Pearson. “We wanted to be certain that we targeted the most vulnerable people in the community.”

That $5,000 accomplished that mission.

So did $10,000, which is what Hooktown Holidays collected in the next year.

“I’ve been a goal-setter my whole life,” said Pearson. “That’s what drives you.”

The charity was able to add Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church’s hot meals program and the Veterans Emergency Fund.

“Last year, I thought we had the opportunity to get to $15,000, and we actually did it,” said Pearson. “We added The Sharing Place, an evening soup kitchen.”

In the meantime, Hooktown has become a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and has a board of directors.

All helping to spread the word on the charity.

This year’s goal?

$28,000.

“We can do much more in the community if we have more support,” said Pearson. “Every penny you donate is returned to our community…”

Pearson said Hooktown Holidays has accomplished so much with one person at a time. He reminisces occasionally about all the people Hooktown has helped, in part by looking through a binder with letters of thanks, newspaper articles, and notes.

“It makes you want to move forward at a faster pace,” he said.

He said things like this article will help, just explaining to more people what they are about.

“I would say to anyone that doesn’t know us, if you want to have control of where your money goes, and your focus in the community is what we’re doing, serving the poor and the needy in the community, in providing them the basics that you need for life…, then I would ask you to support us. Because that’s all we do.”

Pearson said it’s the most gratifyingly feeling in the word to give to those who need it.

Last year, when The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign wasn’t doing as well as hoped, “we wrote them a check.”

Hooktown Holidays can be a supplement that the county needs.

“Can I pick where I want my money to go? Of course you can.

“Can I do an honorarium for someone else? Of course you can.

“All you have to do is help the individuals we’re helping (through our mission statement).”

It started with $2 a week.

——

For donations to this year-round charity, visit its website at www.hooktownholidays.org, or mail a donation amount to Hooktown Holidays, Inc., P.O. Box 1751, Warren, Pa. 16365.

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