The Clay County Mission Outreach was a hive of activity this week as volunteers made sure low-income families in Henrietta and across the county have gifts and a Christmas dinner.
This year, the Mission Outreach prepared donated gifts for 163 children of all ages, including 16 new bicycles donated by C and S Fun Center of Henrietta.
Gift packages include shirts, pants, socks, underwear and toiletries, as well as a toy. Gift packages were distributed Thursday, beginning at 4 p.m. Seventy families received packages, and were allowed to choose one additional toy for each child.
Toys were collected through Angel Tree programs at the First National Bank of Byers, Legend Bank and Wells Fargo, and through individual donations. First Baptist Church of Henrietta provided a sack of fruit to each child, while the Henrietta Volunteer Fire Department provided clothing and gifts with proceeds raised in the annual Operation Santa Claus motorcycle ride.
Other organizations also participated in toy drives and with donations, and continue to assist the Mission Outreach with food distribution throughout the year. On Tuesday, National Honor Society students from Petrolia High School were on hand to sort canned items. Whitney Dowd, interim director of the Mission Outreach, said Henrietta Junior High students in the Jr. NHS and other student organizations have also volunteered.
Dowd said the mission is always in need of gifts at Christmas time, especially for older children, as well as monetary and food donations to carry the organization through the rest of the year.
Mission Outreach serves approximately 500 clients, twice as many as in 1999, when Phyllis Jennings turned the Mission Outreach over to a board of director following the death of her husband Frank.
Frank and Phyllis Jennings founded the Clay County Mission Outreach in 1985, working from a spare bedroom in their small home at 903 E. Ikard St. in Henrietta The Mission Outreach has always been community supported.
Within two years, the Mission Outreach flourished, and the Jennings traded their home for the organizations current location at 416 E. Gilbert St, a former church building that had served the Assembly of God and Church of Christ. Phyllis, who now lives in Wichita Falls and has since remarried, said the First Baptist Church of Henrietta constructed a small apartment inside the building for the Jennings family to live in. It was daughter Jessica’s home from the time she was 6 until she graduated high school.
“We traded our home straight across the board for this building,” said Phyllis.
The Mission Outreach was a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job for the Jennings family.
As the Outreach Mission continues to grow, plans are in the works to better serve clients, said Dowd. The organization plans to add a walk-in cooler and freezer for cold food storage.