Community Builder: Woman spreads Christmas cheer for more than 15 years

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As the Families Helping Families campaign winds down, there are hundreds of volunteers to thank and one of them has been helping to make Christmas happen for Midlands families in need for years.

"Mary is really a blessing to this program," said Nell Killoy with the Palmetto Project.

For more than 15 years, Mary Hellams has worked with the Palmetto Project and WIS' Families Helping Families donating her time, her skills and her resources.

"She doesn't do that phone bank because she doesn't want to be on TV, but here at the warehouse every day," said Killoy. "She probably didn't tell you she also adopts families, she gives money, she gets her church involved."

And that included this year, when Hellams lost much of what she owned in October's floods.

"The house that I was in was my parent's house. I had redone it 5 1/2 years ago, completely remodeled it," said Hellams. "Now I'm starting all over again."

Hellams says the worst part was losing gifts she had already bought for Families Helping Families.

"I was standing in the house as the water was coming up, and I could see the stuff floating down Kilbourne Road; that hurt the most," said Hellams. "My furniture and stuff I can replace, but I didn't have the money to start all over again with families."

Despite the loss, Hellams was not going to miss a minute at the warehouse this year, which made it easy for WIS and Mungo Homes to surprise her with this news.

"I would just like to say that as a small token of everything you've done for our community, not only since the floods, but for the last 15 years or better with Families Helping Families, you've been nominated and chosen as our Community Builder," said Matt Mungo with Mungo Homes. "And you also get a $1,000 check made out to Palmetto Project."

Honored, Hellams said she'll continue to be right inside the warehouse each December for years to come.

"Every child should have a Christmas," said Hellams. "No child should wake up on Christmas morning and not have something under that tree for them."

If you'd like to help make sure presents get under the tree for children in need, you can still adopt families that have recently been turned back in by calling (803) 758-1020 and leaving a message.

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