Olivia Laborn, a 16-year veteran of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and its annual Empty Stocking Fund, has a trustee at the Morgan County Detention Center open a bag of Christmas presents waiting to be presented to the family of a 4-year-old child.

Out of the bag flows a Lite Brite, Candyland game and several other brand new presents wrapped in cellophane and ready for Christmas morning. There are also two boxes of Pampers for the family, who, Laborn says, “will get a new bicycle, too.”

It is all part of a program perpetuated by Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markley to act as a clearing house for individuals, businesses and civic groups that want to reach out during the holidays and help.

“It’s a good program that allows the community to participate by helping families that might not have any Christmas under the tree for their young kids,” says Laborn.

The programs accepts applications, no questions asked, from families for children from birth to 12-years-old. Laborn says the program is run entirely on donations from local folks. “Every penny we get we get from the community,” she says. “If it wasn’t for the donations we couldn’t do it.”

In the Sheriff’s Office’s squad room, brand new bicycles purchased from the local Walmart are lined up so thick that it’s hard to walk. Three trustees from the Morgan County Detention Center take a number from reserve deputies who stand outside and collect the names from family members who drive up. The trustees are directed to the appropriate bag of gifts by volunteers Betty Clark and Nicole Johnson.

For Johnson the annual Empty Stocking Fund is a moment where she can practice hands-on philanthropy. “I like to give back,” she says. For Clark, the image of a child waking to a desolate Christmas is too much to bear. “I like the idea of children being happy at Christmas.”

For Laborn, happiness also comes when the presents are delivered and the process is complete. Laborn says she and volunteers, including Morgan County Sheriff’s Office administrative officer Stephanie Whitley and Duty Officer Bradley Ingram, spent nearly a month buying and preparing the bags for Christmas. “In those bags are everything a child needs,” she says.

On Friday, Dec. 17, three trustees stayed busy marching back and forth from the duty room to the parking lot to keep the giving flowing. Laborn, says the trustees have told her they, too, gain value from their relationship with the program.

“They love it,” she says. “They told me they didn’t realize how much joy you can get by helping other people.”

Then, Laborn must be filled with joy. A long-time member of Godfrey’s New Enon Baptitst Church, Laborn has spent a lifetime giving. At the church she is on the choir, on the mother board, serves the Sunday school and is on the courtesy guild. Friday’s delivery day of presents was a perfect fit for the dynamic, no-nonsense woman who seems destined to help others.

“I just like being a good servant,” she shrugs. “You get your blessings when you serve.”


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