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Volunteers help Salvation Army Christmas Castle families

| December 11, 2019

Aeren Ruge, 7, and his sister Mariah Cristales, 6, proudly show off their new winter coats while standing in front of their mother Meranda Hair. The siblings were taking part in a Salvation Army Christmas Castle shopping day on Dec. 10 at Wal-Mart. Josie Sellers | Beacon

COSHOCTON – Aeren Ruge, 7, and his sister Mariah Cristales, 6, were eager to show off their new winter coats purchased through The Salvation Army’s Christmas Castle project.

Ruge loved the soft lining of the hood on his blue coat and his sister showed off the warm and cozy inside of her shiny pink coat. Their mother Meranda Hair appreciated the opportunity to get them new coats and boots and the volunteers who shopped with them on Dec. 10 at Wal-Mart.

“It (Christmas Castle) is about people coming together to volunteer their time to help needy children,” she said. “I really appreciate the volunteers.”

The Salvation Army Christmas Castle is for children in first through 12th grade or those who graduated from high school this year. Volunteers took the children shopping Dec. 10-12 at Wal-Mart and helped them spend $75 on new winter gear, clothing and shoes.

Captain Victoria Clark said last year they served 386 children and this year they were up to 480.

“The increase was due to many of our families having medical or financial setbacks,” she said.

Nicole Rantz helped her son Ryan pick out new snow pants. Josie Sellers | Beacon

They even had to put some families on a waiting list.

“We had one cancel because they didn’t feel they needed it anymore and were able to get a family of five kids in,” Clark said. “The dad has just lost his job three weeks ago and was working odd jobs. They were making it, but weren’t sure how much of a Christmas they would have. Our economy is doing great, but there are still places closing their doors and cutting their hours back. When that happens you cut back on basic needs in life like groceries and clothes so you can pay the rent and the utilities, keep your car insurance and put gas in the car to get the kids where they need to go.”

She is grateful for the volunteers who helped the children shop at Wal-Mart.

“Without their hearts of service and hands of service there is no way we could accommodate 450-plus kids,” Clark said. “We really are very grateful.”

Two of those volunteers were mom and daughter Sherry Gunn and Stephanie Gunn.

“This is the third year we’ve done it,” Sherry said. “I enjoy helping other people.”

She and Stephanie just finished up helping their first child and were waiting in line to help another.

“We had a little girl and were able to get her a little bit of everything,” Sherry said.

Sisters Jessica Robinson, 12, and Mckenzie Robinson, 6, were shopping with the help of volunteer Jessie Tubbs. They picked out matching black boots and Mckenzie showed off a pretty blue pullover and shiny silver pants.

Marcella Lowe also was wondering around the girls’ department helping another pair of sisters pick out clothes.

“I volunteer because of the fulfillment it gives you,” Lowe said.

Nicole Rantz tagged along while her boys Ryan Rantz, 8, and Rhys Rantz, 6, shopped with their volunteer.

“This is amazing,” Nicole said about the Christmas Castle project. “We had to use it once before, but it was years ago.”

Things were going really well for the Rantz family with mom and dad both working, but their situation unfortunately recently changed. Nicole was very appreciative of the opportunity to get her boys new winter gear.

“I’m extremely thankful,” she said. “They are gearing up for snow.”

Ryan added that he liked snow very much and Rhys said was looking forward to going sled riding.

With the help of WTNS programming The Salvation Army raised $37,100 to help the Rantz family and hundreds of others.

“We have a very generous community,” Clark said.

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About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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