A few days before Christmas, Freeman Health System employees sorted donated items to help their fellow employees during an annual event.

“We have our Freeman Family Christmas, this is the fourth year, that we have really looked at our opportunity to give back to our employees,” said Shawn McGrew, director of service excellence at Freeman Health System. “Throughout the year, numerous times, we are always looking at what we can do to reach out to the community to provide support to local organizations, people who need our services and help. And this time of the year, we really want to give back to those that make that possible — our employees — and really making sure that each one of our families – the Freeman family – has a wonderful and bright Christmas.”

The program starts to form back in September or early October of each year.

“The program allows families to either nominate themselves or nominate a co-worker,” McGrew said. “And when they do that, we put together the Christmas list, we hang cards across all of our facilities at Freeman Neosho, Freeman East, Freeman West, Freeman Business Center, outlying clinics and the people take those cards, they purchase the gift and they bring that, return it to the hospital. We collect those and put it all together.”

On Thursday, Dec. 19, the Freeman “elves” sorted the donated items into boxes, which were given to the families on Monday, Dec. 23. This year, Freeman Health System provided gifts to 98 families.

“It is one of our largest years,” he said. “We have really had a number of people who have stepped up and we have had more contributions, donations and gifts to the program than we have ever had. We see a variety of items and what we look at we want to do at least one toy for every child. We like to do clothing, shoes if those are needed. This year, I believe, we did 148 pairs of shoes that are going on. Clothing for every child. We will do a food basket for each family and additional gifts.”

Renee Denton, Freeman Neosho administrative services director, is pleased with the program.

“I am very honored to work with individuals who make others needs as important as their own, thus exemplifying the qualities Freeman values,” she said. “I have witnessed the generosity of Freeman employees, not just during the Christmas season, but year round. I am continuously overwhelmed by our staff’s generosity, many of whom very likely may have needs themselves but still have a giving heart.”

And the families who receive assistance, Denton said there is a great feedback.

“We have very positive feedback regarding Freeman Family Christmas,” she said. “Those families who need assistance are thankful beyond measure, while those who donate to the cause enjoy knowing they have made a difference in the life of a co-worker.”