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Club's efforts pay off in Christmas joy

December 23, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

It takes a year-long effort to raise the money.

But Antietam Exchange Club members say they are more than repaid every December with the joy brought to less fortunate Washington County children by the fun holiday party and presents it yields.

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The club has sponsored the Christmastime event for more than 20 years, said event chairman Arthur Schneider.

This year's event, held Dec. 12 at Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church on North Potomac Street, drew 81 children referred by the non-profit Exchange Club Parent-Child Center in Hagerstown, Schneider said.

"Every kid gets to sit on Santa's lap and get a bag full of nice, expensive gifts," he said.

The club raises money in a variety of ways throughout the year, Schneider said. This year's efforts including a spaghetti feast and a bingo basket sale.

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The club's fund raising was supplemented by sponsors including Farmers & Merchants Bank and Trust, the Western Maryland Troopers Association and AC&T, he said.

The toys come from Sam's Club in Hagerstown, which provides a discount and two employees as helpers, Schneider said.

In addition to Santa and the presents, the party includes lunch, treats home-baked by members and entertainment - this year a magician, he said.

The event has grown over the years, both in the number of kids and the amount spent on their presents, said Schneider, who has served as chairman for more than a decade.

The party doesn't just benefit the children, but also the many members, their spouses and children who pitch in, Schneider said.

"It's just great because you get instant feedback from kids that need help. Everybody who goes to the party after that is locked in," he said.

Almost all of the active club members attend, said club president Jeff Bowers, who said he looks forward to the party every year.

"It's one of my favorite (activities) because it kind gets you back to what Christmas is about," said Bowers, who said he plans to bring his own two children to help out when they're older.

Club members enjoy the event as much as the children do, said immediate past president Kathleen Riley

"It's a lot of fun and it's loud," Riley said.

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