Changes are in the works for a well-known LaRue County program that has helped needy families each Christmas for the past five decades. The Santa’s Helpers program will be taken over by several churches in the county.

Nathan Wheeler, who is one of the volunteer leaders for the transition, said the Santa’s Helpers program will be held Dec. 22 each year at the Ovesen Heights Baptist Church Ministry Center.

Wheeler said they still will accept volunteers for the program and it currently is a joint effort between Ovesen Heights Baptist, Steadfast Baptist, Hodgenville United Metho­dist, Mag­nolia Baptist, New Horizon Baptist and Freedom’s Way churches.

“We are going to try and do everything that Snookie (Morrison) did in what she provided. We feel like we will have enough help, but we encourage others to volunteer, too,” Wheeler said. “We are having it at the one location only and not going around to the different stops with the Santa Bus.

“It’s a central location and one thing we are talking about doing is having separate times scheduled for people in Magnolia to come, people in Buffalo to come and so on,” he added. “That way, everyone gets helped and it isn’t as cluttered.”

Wheeler said they are having monthly meetings at Ovesen Heights Baptist Church to continue to plan for this year’s event.

“We will change the name because one thing that was discussed was the namesake of Santa’s Helpers and the Santa Bus will stay with Snookie,” Wheeler said. “We thought about having a contest for people to vote on new names, but all of that is still in the works.

“This is also important to me, because our preacher told us that only around 18 percent of people in LaRue County attend church,” he added. “I would like to see that number go up and would like to see people led to Jesus Christ through this. I think this program is a way to help make that happen.”

The next community meeting is at 6 p.m. March 5 at the church.

In its 51st year, Santa Helpers made their last run last December. The program provided toys, clothing and food to La­Rue County families who were in need each Christmas.

Ann Snookie Morrison, former program coordinator, said Santa’s Helpers was founded by her late husband, Bobby Morrison, in 1966 and Scouts in Boy Scout Troop 425.

“It all started in 1966 when the Boy Scouts sold treats for extra money during the Christmas season,” Morrison said. “The next year, the Boy Scouts wanted to give away toys to needy kids and Bobby spearheaded the program. It later grew into giving away clothes, food baskets and other things to those in need.”

Every year, Morrison said her husband or another volunteer would dress up as Santa Claus as they delivered toys at drop off points and homes in their Rudolph bus on Christmas Eve. She said they also delivered fruit baskets to elderly people at their homes and at Sunrise Manor nursing home in Hodgenville.

“We made fruit baskets or boxes for shut-ins and residents at the nursing home. The tradition was to have a teddy bear on top of it,” she said. “The nursing home later didn’t allow stuffed animals because they said it was a fire hazard, but we replaced it with something else they could have. Ones that couldn’t have fruit we made sure they had lotion or something else.”

She said she still will help with the program in the future.

“I would like to thank everyone that helped, the volunteers, people that gave and the community. We couldn’t have done it for 51 years without them,” Morrison said. “Since my son Tommy is gone, I decided it was time for me to step down. I am glad Ovesen Heights is hosting it. I have enjoyed doing this program all of these years and it has been a worthwhile experience.”

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