"I thought about how a lot of people come into our store (Shaver's Plumbing and Hardware), and they might help us collect food and toys to assist needy families around Christmas time," Christi Shaver remembered.
As an incentive to give, Shaver decided to offer a gift to those who made donations.
Shaver got a late start the first year, but people responded, and the food collection program became a tradition at the store.
"One year, I was kind of late in getting started and a couple of ladies from the Agape Food Room were in the store and said, 'When are you going to get started on the food drive?' Shaver laughed.
So, a "Share the Spirit" bin has been added near a small Christmas tree at the front of the store. Regulars have started dropping off grocery bags of canned goods and Shaver also collects new, unwrapped toys, but there's always room for more.
"It doesn't seem like we've gotten as much as usual, but I' m sure people will come through," Shaver said.
She has an ace in the hole -- the Fulton County Horse Club, which she directs.
Instead of having a gift exchange at their yearly Christmas party, in recent years, club members have received a t-shirt, and asked to bring non-perishable food that she can add to her store collection.
"The kids and their parents really get involved and we put together a lot of food," Shaver said.
Donated food goes to the Agape Food Room at the Salem Church of Christ, and toys are collected for the Department of Human Resources Angel Tree program, which helps needy children with toys and clothing for Christmas.
Angel Trees have been placed at the Fulton County Courthouse, Simmons Bank in Mammoth Spring and the Walmart at Ash Flat.
The deadline is Friday, Dec. 7, to choose an angel, buy gifts for him or her and leave the gifts at Angel Tree locations or the Salem DHS office at 222 Byron Road. This year, DHS is requesting that gifts be left unwrapped, or placed in gift bags.
"We received 215 Angel requests this year, and I know there are still Angels out there who have not been chosen, and time is growing short," DHS Office Assistant Connie Buss said.
The Dec. 7 deadline allows time for DHS employees to go through donations and determine how many Angels have not received gifts, and whether children in a family are getting about the same number of gifts. DHS has collected donations to allow employees to go on a last minute shopping expedition to buy additional gifts.
"Businesses and individuals are always good to us, so we can make sure we help as many kids as we can have a nice Christmas," Buss said. "Some people donate money so that they don't have to do the shopping, while others just want to help out."
Buss added that independent toy collection programs, like the one Christi Shaver runs, help with the process of making sure each child is taken care of. In addition, a couple of churches have take several children to be responsible for.
Angel Tree gifts will be distributed to families sometime in mid-December.
For Angel Tree questions or to make donations, call 895-3309.