The COVID-19 virus has lingered longer than anyone expected when the world was first hit with pandemic status in March. We are quickly approaching the end of the year and we are still being assaulted with ramifications of the ongoing crisis in a variety of ways.

We have seen people sheltering at home. Masks and face coverings of all types have become a standard part of our everyday dress code. Social distancing is now how we show concern and respect for others. We clean and sanitize our hands and every surface we come near. We have prayed for the sick more than ever and we have mourned the loss of more than 900 of our fellow West Virginians. Businesses have been shuttered and people have lost their jobs.

Yes, we are living in critical times right now. A vaccine is on the horizon and, fortunately, there may be relief in our future. That is great news for the long run, but it still leaves us dealing with immediate concerns.

Christmas is only a couple of short weeks away. What should be a magical time for everyone, especially children, is not going to be so much this year. Many families are struggling because of reduced hours at work or even worse — unemployment. 

While economic downturns have plagued our region for quite some time, the situation is greater this year. The Mingo County Sheriff’s Deputy Association has filled in the gap to a certain extent over the past 22 years with their “Shop with a Deputy” initiative. This program allows 75 to 100 school-aged children to buy toys and clothing for Christmas. This year, those in charge of the program are seeing even more families in need of assistance. As the need has increased, funding for the program is suffering because COVID-19 protocols have restricted fundraising activities.

Yet, the Association is pressing on with the program. But they need our help, and they need it quickly. The group is scheduled to take the children shopping on Thursday. Our Mingo County deputies do a work that should be held in highest esteem and it is done because of their commitment to our county and to our children. They do not do it for personal pats on the back. As a county we should support them in any way we can. This year, that way is opening our hearts and our pocketbooks more than ever. Last minute donations can allow them to help even more children.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything in 2020, it is that community is a far greater thread in the fabric of our lives than we realized. We have had to stay away from loved ones. We have changed the way we worship. We have had to cancel family reunions and even make funerals private functions.

In spite of this, we have seen people reaching out to help neighbors. Facebook is full of posts from those who have had to quarantine because of being tested positive or having been exposed in some manner thanking members of their communities for providing food, picking up groceries and other essentials and sending encouraging messages.

Now, we are called on — one more time — to rise to action. Our children have suffered in many ways this year from not being allowed to play sports to not having birthday parties to not being together at school. Don’t let Christmas be diminished for them as well. Make one last donation to the Shop with a Deputy program by dropping a monetary gift off at the courthouse, by mail or via a special PayPal link on the Sheriff’s Department Facebook page.

Together we can end 2020 in a truly “positive” manner and allow our young children to have a few packages to unwrap on Christmas morning.

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