Photos courtesy of the city of Edgerton
The scent of smoked turkeys and sides filled the air at Edgerton City Hall just days before Christmas. With festive music playing in the background, volunteers were hard at work, packing boxes for meals and gifts that would go to help more than 30 local families and over 40 children as part of the 2020 Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund.
The annual Edgerton tradition has grown over the last few years as the need continues to increase. Families are nominated through third-party organizations, such as the Edgerton Food Pantry, churches and other groups.
“We’re looking for the families that aren’t getting help from other programs,” said Donald Roberts, mayor. “My goal has always been to find the people that might slip through the cracks or that are too proud to ask for help.”
The fund pays for a meal from Johnny’s BBQ in Olathe and purchases gift cards for the families to use for gifts or other essentials. “We want them to be able to pick out toys or clothes for their kids and something for themselves,” said Roberts. “Most of these families work two or three jobs and are just barely making ends meet. I’ve gone into homes where its dark and cold and the family is wearing jackets inside because they can’t afford their electric bill. A car crash or a furnace going out could mean they don’t eat or buy medicine, let alone buy a Christmas gift.”
Most of the families know that their names have been submitted but are unaware of what they’ll receive or when. Roberts likes it that way. “I love the surprise,” he says with a grin.
Volunteers love participating too. Pastor Casey Carter of New City Church said that he was thrilled when the mayor approached him. “This is what we are all called to do—help our neighbor,” he said.
One family, who will remain anonymous, received boxes of food plus gift cards. “This was a surprise and I am very thankful for this blessing. I can’t say thank you enough and all involved will never know how much this is appreciated,” said the father.
The Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund also buys hams and small gifts for Edgerton’s seniors. The crews at the Johnson County Fire District No. 1 Fire Station 124 deliver the hams and check on the older members of the community. The firefighters say they have fun playing “Ham Santa.” uty Brad Johnson, Edgerton community policing officer, handles the gift delivery. He says it’s a rewarding experience. “I love just talking to people. I had one lady just gush over the gift and give me a hug. It’s really fun,” he said.
The Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund is entirely funded by private donations. While efforts are focused around the holidays, the fund also helps families throughout the year. In the past, the fund has helped renovate a home for a wheelchair-bound resident and purchased items for the food pantry. Donations are accepted at Edgerton City Hall or through the city’s website at edgertonks.org/holidays.