Christmas Aglow brings joy to kids in need

Tim and Linda Elliott of Pleasant Hill started Christmas Aglow in the 1980s as a way to make sure children receive gifts on Christmas.
Tim and Linda Elliott of Pleasant Hill started Christmas Aglow in the 1980s as a way to make sure children receive gifts on Christmas. Special to The Star

Tim Elliott’s giving spirit ensures that boys and girls will wake up to find neatly wrapped gifts underneath the tree on Christmas.

The 79-year-old Pleasant Hill resident doesn’t like to be called Santa. Nor does he wear a red suit. But that’s who he is to hundreds of children across Cass County.

“I want to help somebody have a good Christmas,” Elliott said.

Each year, he and his wife, Linda, 76, collect hundreds of toys — with help from their five adult children, extended family members and people in the community — to pass out before Christmas for children 10 years old and younger.

Tim calls it “Chrismas Aglow,” and this year, parents were invited to pick out gifts for their children during a distribution event Dec. 12-13 at his Pleasant Hill home.

Several years ago, Tim converted the carport at his residence into an enclosed toy shop where moms and dads in need can shop for presents.

Gifts for boys and girls line the shelves inside the building. Each child receives four items – a large and small gift, a book and a bag of stocking stuffers.

The gifts are then wrapped, given a bow and tagged ready to go for Christmas.

Each family also receives a bag filled with items for a spaghetti dinner, snacks and a Christian-themed movie. They’re also given a turkey to take home.

Last year, the Elliotts gave away about 1,500 gifts to 350 children. This year they are on track to do about the same.

Christmas Aglow recently received its non-profit status, making gifts and donations tax-deductible.

The event has turned into a Christmas tradition for the Elliott clan.

“It’s a family affair,” said Susan Scott, of Blue Springs, one of Tim and Linda’s daughters. “We’re all here.”

Tim gives so much because he remembers not having Christmas presents as a child.

“I grew up on the farm and we were very poor,” Tim said. “We just had food – no toys or Christmas tree.”

The couple started Christmas Aglow in the mid-1980s by collecting used toys to give away. They rented a small space in downtown Pleasant Hill to pass out the gifts.

The program ran until the early 1990s, when the couple’s work schedules began to interfere. With their grown children willing to help, the family decided to bring back the program in 2008.

Challenges in the economy continue to increase the demand for assistance at Christmas time.

“Nobody knows when they might be in those same shoes,” said Shirley Brookens, a Pleasant Hill resident and Linda’s younger sister.

Family members spend the entire year shopping for new toys.

“We do it all year long, watching for deals,” Scott said.

They also rely on local retailers.

“The community has really gotten behind us to help,” Scott said. “There’s been tons of donations this year from everywhere.”

While they bless others with gifts, family members say they receive more in return.

“We hear their stories and we pray with them,” Scott said. “It warms our hearts and makes us so happy that we are able to help.”

Families in need can still receive gifts from Christmas Aglow by calling 816-540-5540 for an appointment.

“We’ll even take appointments on Christmas Day,” Linda Elliott said.

Recipients are asked to donate one can of non-perishable food per child assisted .

“We’re passing that on to a food pantry here in town,” Brookens said. “One hand feeds the other.”