As Larry Debar puts it, he and his family are paying it forward this holiday season through the Treasures for Children program.
“It’s fulfilling knowing that you’re doing something good to help those in need,” said Debar, of Homer City.
It wasn’t that long ago that he and his family found themselves in need of some help during the holidays.
A few years ago, Debar had just gotten out of the U.S. Army, where he served as a motor sergeant. The family’s financial situation was precarious.
“I had used the program itself for my children,” said Debar, 54. “Everything got better, so it’s time to pay it forward.”
And that’s just what they’re doing.
He and his wife, Holly, 42, and their children, Courtney, 18, Tristyn, 17, and Shyenne, 13, have purchased gifts for children in need and also have helped pick up presents dropped off at Treasures for Children tree locations.
“As far as being a recipient and helping out now, you know, with the program, you have a community that’s pulling together to help those in need, and I think that’s just an awesome thing,” he said.
Debar has seen that firsthand this holiday season.
On Dec. 9, he and his wife helped out by making numerous trips from tree locations in his pickup truck and delivering them to the program’s distribution site.
They had to make several pickups at the same location, a testament to the generosity of Indiana County residents.
“When I pull in there, I always tell them I have a sleigh full,” he said.
As inches of snow covered the roads last week, Debar said he was determined that his trusty “sleigh” would make it through one of the first winter storms of the season.
“The weather was bad, but it’s pretty much something that needed to be done, and we were going to continue until it was done,” he said.
And Debar is in it for the long haul — he’s volunteered to be on call for pick-ups of late donations.
Additionally, Debar’s children selected two Treasures for Children tags from the tree at Walmart, one for a boy and one for a girl.
“They knew what (the recipient) end of it was like,” he said. “They know what it’s like now that we’re on our feet. How it feels when you’re doing something for somebody else.”
Upon selecting the tags, the family immediately went shopping, picking out clothes, shoes and toys — Disney princesses, monster trucks and Legos.
“We got them quite a lot of stuff, stuff that wasn’t on the list, too,” Debar said. “I went a little crazy. I had to stop myself or I would have kept on going.”
He still remembers the presents that his children got to open on Christmas, thanks to Treasures for Children.
“The gifts they received, oh man, they loved them,” he said. “We still have a bike that the youngest received. She kept it in good shape, and she’s getting ready to pass it off to another little girl.”
Debar said there’s no doubt that his family will continue to be involved.
“I think next year, it will be the same way,” he said. “I think the kids will be looking forward to going out and sponsoring a child and helping out in any way they can.”
Treasures for Children is co-sponsored by The Salvation Army and The Indiana Gazette.