For the second time in as many years, the weather for Saturday’s annual “Christmas in the Park,” held in Desloge City Park, was unusually warm and comfortable — especially for the first day of December.
It was truly a perfect day for an outdoor festival of fun.
By the time the popular event began at 1 p.m. a line of parents with their children had already formed for a chance to spend some time with Santa Claus, as was another line gearing up to take a ride on one of two horse-drawn carriages for a tour of the park.
Under a picnic pavilion, live Christmas music was being played; popcorn, hot chocolate and holiday goodies were being passed out; and children along with their parents were taking part in making Christmas crafts to hang on the refrigerator door at home.
Elsewhere children were riding on swings, going down the slide and taking advantage of all the other playground equipment.
Observing all the fun was Desloge Head Librarian Misty Boyer, who was dressed like an elf and sporting an ear-to-ear grin as the city’s library board-sponsored event was proving itself to be another big hit.
This weather is fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!” she said. “I checked the weather forecast since 7 o’clock this morning probably a dozen times just because I was so nervous.”
Asked what she believes brings out the crowds for Christmas in the Park each year, Boyer said, “I think it’s mostly the carriage rides because they’re always a big success, and of course Santa always has a big line. They always seem to enjoy the crafts for the kids, and I think maybe the playground, too — the parents just enjoying their time at the park with their kids.”
Looking at the growing number of people coming to the park, Boyer said, “We already had a big crowd after the first 10 minutes of being here, so I would be surprised if we didn't have several hundred people here today.”
Speaking with several of the families in attendance, it was obvious that Christmas in the Park has hit on the perfect recipe for bringing the holiday season to the Parkland.
Zach and Victoria Glenn, of Park Hills, brought their two children — Ezio, 3, and Liam, 2 — for the very first time. Their mother had brought her niece to Christmas in the Park years ago.
“I heard about everything that was going on and figured they’d come see Santa and get to see the horses," Zach Glenn said.
Rose Wiseman of Park Hills brought her 2-year-old son, Keegan, to enjoy the festivities for the very first time.
“The weather is beautiful, and we are excited to see Santa,” she said. “We’re glad we came out.”
Angela Dawes of Bonne Terre brought her two children, 15-month-old Logan and 7-year-old Myah, and said this was the second year for the three to visit Christmas in the Park.
“We loved it last year and we’re loving it again today,” she said. “We’re just hoping the rain holds out, but it’s beautiful out today.”
Knowing that a massive undertaking like Christmas in the Park can’t be pulled off by one person alone, Misty Boyer mentioned the companies and organizations who helped make the day possible.
“I’d like to thank the people who took their time to help us out — the Desloge Library Board, of course, that sponsors this every year; Walmart is helping us out this year with the hot cocoa; and Belgrade State Bank always provides the popcorn. We have music provided by the Boyers from Boyer Funeral Home and we have some kids here from North County High School helping us with the crafts today. We thank the carriage company that came out, and of course, Santa himself.
When all is said and done, Boyer said Christmas in the Park can best be described as a community event that's put on by the community itself.
“We have people who sometimes call us wanting to know what they can do,” she said. “Of course, we have contacts that we call every year and they are always so eager to help us.”
The Christmas Lady is in full swing preparing for her “no one is forgotten” mission during the holidays.
For the last 22 years, Dorothy Lee Johnston, better known as The Christmas Lady, has delivered gifts and necessities to area residents and veterans who are in nursing homes each Christmas.
“We have had Casey’s in Bonne Terre collecting for us for the whole month of October, plus they will collect for two weeks in December,” Johnston said. “We already have a lot of stuff confirmed and Horton-Wampler Funeral Home, along with Leadwood United Methodist Church has both donated so far.”
Johnston said Park Hills River Mart and Desloge Walmart have also donated. She added this all helped to purchase sweatpants and sweatshirts for the veterans.
“I have been busy and am very pleased to receive donations to help these folks,” Johnston said. “The Leadwood Methodist Church has been so dedicated for so many years and for them to help is neat. Dr. Oberle and Politte Ready Mix in Potosi have also donated.”
She said she was told of a clothing issue with some of the veteran residents and she has been working extra hard to be able to provide sweatpants, a sweatshirt and socks to each veteran this year.
“We are needing all the help we can get this year because there are so many who have no family support and they are in need of clothing at all the homes we service,” said Johnston. “I always appreciate all the help I can get.”
Johnston said she tells everyone to leave the tags on the clothes donated, otherwise she can’t accept it. She added she needs sweat jacket/pant sets for the ladies because they go outside and like the zipper on the front.
“We are always in need of deodorant, lap throws, body lotion and crew socks,” said Johnston. “Those are the items we are always in need of and we are doing more clothing than we have ever done before.”
Johnston said this has become such a large project that they not only are working it right now, but they have to work it all year long.
“We have to do it all year long because we can’t buy some of our products anytime but the middle of the summer,” said Johnston. “Also we buy items during the school sales and when Country Mart has a sale on the body lotions. There is a lot of these items we get throughout the year and we need year-round support. A lot of these items have to be bought in the middle of the year in order to get them at a reduced price.”
Johnston said they are in need of coloring books and all kinds of crew socks for men and women. She said they don’t have just the veterans home, there are vets in the other nursing homes as well.
“We get things that are needed the most and we are in the process of getting all of this right now,” said Johnston. “Any little bit helps. Last year was the first year I didn’t have to pay out of my pocket to get everything.”
Each year Johnston serves more than 1,000 nursing home residents who have no family support and all of the money raised stays in the community. She said Belgrade State Bank has been a blessing to her ministry.
“Belgrade State Bank will be using their van to help deliver the items again this year and they will be supplying calendars to hang in their rooms,” said Johnston. “Last year when they have helped in the past they had a box prepared with bags of personal items for each resident we served.”
Johnston said they even paid for the gas and had volunteers to help distribute the items. She said the only money that came out of her pocket last year was to buy lunch for who helped take the items to the nursing homes.
Anyone who would like to donate to the cause can contact Dorothy Lee Johnston at 573-358-3226 or check donations can be made out to “The Christmas Lady” and mailed to 8718 Mostiller Rd. Bonne Terre, MO 63628.
Children everywhere will soon be making their Christmas wish lists, families throughout the Parkland will be decorating their homes for the holidays, and people across the nation will be celebrating the season with family, friends and coworkers.
Once all the hustle and bustle starts, however, it's easy to forget those who may not be as fortunate.
With Christmas less than a month away, plans are already well underway for this year's annual Foster Children Christmas Party being held at Calvary Church in Fredericktown.
"Every year we are amazed at the generosity of community organizations, churches and individuals who come together to give these children a night that they will remember," said Kim Pate, event coordinator. "The annual Christmas Party is a night when the children and their foster families have the opportunity to experience a magical Christmas. The children are treated to pictures with Santa, pizza, drinks, games and gifts. The most important aspect of the evening is having a sense of belonging and seeing how everyone comes together to honor these children.”
Pate said local businesses, community organizations and individuals are needed now to help sponsor the event.
"On Christmas morning there are nearly 550 children in foster care in St. Francois, Madison, Ste. Genevieve and Washington counties who will not wake up in the same home as their parents or possibly even their siblings," she said. "These are the children who wonder whether or not Santa will find them in their foster home. Will they have presents under the Christmas tree or will Santa give them what they want most of all — to be with their families?
"Although you may not be able to grant all of their wishes, you can help them to know they matter and are not forgotten. You can embrace the holiday season by making difference in the lives of these local children by becoming a foster child's sponsor, making a monetary donation or holding a toy drive. Individuals and groups who choose to sponsor a child, will receive a child's wish list with items they've requested."
Pate added that, since they want all of the foster children treated equally, donors are asked to spend around $75 per child on their gifts. Donations are needed as soon as possible to allow time to purchase just the right gifts for the kids.
To learn how to sponsor a foster child or to learn more about the Christmas party, contact Pate at 573-783-1445 or email Pamela Herzog at Pamela.R.Herzog@dss.mo.gov.
A Washington County woman is facing a felony charge after emergency responders were called for a toddler overdosing on heroin/fentanyl.
Heather Politte, 25, of Cadet, is being charged with a Class B felony of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
According to Washington County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy/Captain Chris Barton, deputies were called to the area of Cannon Mines Road and Kirkwood Road on Friday afternoon at 4:13 p.m. for a 2-year-old girl who had ingested fentanyl/heroin.
“When deputies arrived along with the Washington County Ambulance District, the child was located with shallow breathing and in and out of consciousness,” Barton said. “Narcan/Naloxone and other life saving techniques were provided to the toddler.”
Barton said prior to leaving the scene, the toddler was alert and conscious.
“During the course of the investigation it was found that the child had located a 'bean,' or small bag of fentanyl/heroin, at an undisclosed location while in the presence of Politte, her mother,” Barton said. “Once Politte noticed the object in the child’s mouth there was an attempt to remove the bag, however it busted inside of the child’s mouth.”
Barton said Politte did not immediately seek medical help. He added she also admitted to buying the fentanyl/heroin at the undisclosed location the day before the overdose.
“The toddler was taken to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis by ambulance to be treated and was alert and conscious at the time of transport,” Barton said. “After being at the hospital for a couple of hours she (was) talking. They even sent me a photo of her eating.”
Barton said the Division of Family Services was contacted and they took custody of the little girl.
Politte was booked in the Washington County Jail on a $50,000 bond.
A Fredericktown woman received injuries in a one-car accident at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the junction of Highway 51 and County Road 214 in Bollinger County.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the accident occurred when a northbound 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara driven by Jessica D. Gaines, 32, of Fredericktown, ran off the right side of the roadway, struck an embankment and overturned.
Gaines, who was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident, was transported by EMS to St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau where she was treated for serious injuries.
In a separate incident, a Fredericktown man was injured in a truck accident at 9:03 a.m. Saturday on County Road 220, five miles north of Fredericktown in Madison County.
The patrol reports that the accident occurred when an eastbound 1993 Chevrolet truck being driven by Kaylin R. Tinsley, 22, of Fredericktown, ran off the left side of the road and struck a tree.
An occupant in the truck, Patrick N. O’Brien, 37, also of Fredericktown, was transported by private conveyance to Madison Medical Center where he was treated for moderate injuries. He was reportedly not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Later that morning a Festus man was injured in an ATV accident on Trail 100 in St. Joe State Park in St. Francois County.
The patrol reported the accident, which happened at 10:55 a.m., occurred when a northbound 2014 Kawasaki 830 driven by Zachary L. Wild, 25, of Festus, struck a tree causing him to be ejected.
Wild, who was wearing a helmet at the time, was transported by St. Francois County Ambulance to Mercy Hospital South where he was treated for moderate injuries.