FAIRMONT - It's been an annual tradition and a friendly competition for the city of Fairmont and Martin County workers to see which can gather more donations for the Salvation Army to start the holiday season.
But for Major Dale Hixenbaugh, the delivery was a pleasant surprise.
"I didn't know about this, being my first year here and all," he said. "I know they do the red bags with the radio station and the paper, but I didn't know about this."
Major Dale Hixenbaugh of the Salvation Army, left, looks over the pews filled with food from the county and city food drive, as Martin County Assessor Dan Whitman snaps pictures.
While more attention is brought to those in need during the holidays, Hixenbaugh points out there is always a need.
"Donations and volunteers have been running a little slow," he admitted. "But it picks up once we get past Thanksgiving. We're still in need of volunteers for the kettles, and now we could use more volunteers with the food shelf, too."
Hixenbaugh was glad to see the amount of food brought in and the types.
"When we need to fill 250 baskets, we need 250 jars of peanut butter," he said of preparing the Christmas help baskets. "It's tough when we only have one or two cans of one thing. Like what are we going to be able to do with a can of oysters?"
Families will be able to receive Christmas assistance from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Dec. 3-10 at the Salvation Army.
During the annual county/city food drive, organizers estimated about a ton of food is donated.
"We started this about eight years ago," said Martin County Assessor Dan Whitman. "It's estimated that the county brought in about a thousand pounds of food this year, which also averages out to about a thousand items."
While the city did not weigh the items brought in, it was estimated to be close, though the competitive edge on both sides refused to concede.
"It was more than the county," said Fairmont's financial director Paul Hoye when asked how much the city had donated, which was rebuffed with some guffaws from the county workers.
"There's been a stable participation," said Martin County Auditor Jim Forshee. "And we'll keep going until the city beats us."
After a moment of more laughs and jabs, Whitman drew a conclusion both sides agreed on: "It's just a lot of fun."
The Red Bag donations for the Salvation Army will be collected the week of Dec. 3 with a Red Bag pick-up day scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 8.