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Lawrence elves offer Santa a little help

Dec. 16, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

SOUTH POINT, Ohio -- If Casey Baker's lawyering career ever hits a snag, he has a potential career as an elf.

Baker is a member of the Lawrence Young Professionals, a group affiliated with the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce. It is the fourth year the group has overseen the Secret Santa program, which raises funds and works with local school districts to help about 440 children have a better Christmas.

The program was sponsored by the employees at the Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services before the professionals took it over about four years ago. The employees had to discontinue the program following state budget cuts that caused layoffs, increased workloads and led to pay cuts.

"It was going to be phased out," Baker said Friday. "So we picked it up. The people in the schools and community who help out are the Santas. We're the elves."

Baker, a lawyer with the Huntington firm of Huddleston and Bolen, has worked on the Secret Santa program for four years.

"Each year, it gets a little easier," said Massie Schemmel, assistant vice president and branch manager of the City National Bank in Ironton. "We get a little more organized. We had fewer kids this year. I feel this program is something the community needs. It's nice to give locally. It stays local."

The group tries to raise $50 for each child on the list, Schemmel said.

Some local school districts work with the program to help local students, she said.

"We start delivering them Sunday," Schemmel said. "The parents get a letter telling them where and when to show up. Some organizations shopped for their own kids."

"We're already starting to raise funds for next year," she said.

Donations can be sent to the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation/Secret Santa, P.O. Box 488, South Point, Ohio, 45680.

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