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Almost a decade ago, Mike and Denise Echterling of Hart to Heart Ministries decided to "give back" to the Hamilton community. They collected gently used items - from toys to furniture - put it all in a large room, and for three hours on a Saturday morning, gave it away - no questions asked.
As you might expect, it was successful. Each year, more items were donated and larger rooms were needed for what they simply called "The Giveaway." From Hamilton's City Hall, they moved to the Hamilton Middle School gym and finally to the First Interstate event center at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds. A corps of volunteers, including their daughter Michelle and husband Jesse, developed over the years. And donations began coming in all year long, which now annually fills up about seven storage units. And all of it is given away in three hours on a Saturday morning.
They do it as part of their outreach from The Place Church, which also has Sunday worship at the fairgrounds. The Giveaway volunteers start working on filling up the event center on Wednesday evening, and more donations from the public come in on Thursday afternoon. After adding more storage unit items Friday, they open the doors at 9 a.m. Saturday. And it all goes away.
This Saturday, December 11, is the ninth annual "Giveaway." Denise said people line up before the 9 a.m. opening, no matter what the weather might be. The doors open and the crowd comes in, finds what they need and leave. No questions asked, no forms to fill out. Friday, the room was already packed with items - toys, furniture, kitchen items, electronics and more. Some of the articles are brand new because donations allow them to buy things like diapers and clothes - to be given away. There is no mad rush, but the items begin to disappear in that short time period. Three hours later the room is empty. And Mike, Denise, Michelle and Jesse are smiling. Even then, they're thinking about next year.
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