QUINCY -- Ashley Marquardt has been volunteering at the Good News of Christmas Volunteer Center in the Quincy Mall since the seventh grade.
Eight years ago, Marquardt went with her mother to wrap Christmas presents for those in need. She found the activity to be a relaxing way to contribute to the community, and she has been attending without fail since.
"I feel good about the fact that it helps others when they need it," Marquardt said.
She tries to spend at least an hour each night at the volunteer center from the day it opens each season until Top-off Night, the final night the Volunteer Center is open. The Good News of Christmas is sponsored by The Herald-Whig and supported by the United Way and its partnering agencies in West-Central Illinois and Northeast Missouri.
"All my friends were going to the gymnastics center tonight, but I came to wrap presents," Marquardt said Wednesday night. "I'm going to keep doing this as long as I can."
Rosemary Platt has been a regular at the Volunteer Center for the past decade. When she began volunteering there, she would bring her children. Now they have children of their own.
"We come a couple nights a week, depending on how much help they have," Platt said. "I hope Quincy keeps doing this, and I hope we can be a part of it."
A former teacher at Irving Elementary School and principal at schools in Macomb and Champaign, Platt has seen the need for the Good News of Christmas and other programs like it.
"It brightens the holidays a little bit for everybody," she said. "There are a lot of great kids and adults out there and not one of us that doesn't need a helping hand sometimes."
Donna Johnson and her husband, Ray, are also fixtures in the Volunteer Center. After reading about the volunteer opportunity in The Herald-Whig, they dropped by one night eight years ago to help out, and it soon became a tradition for them.
"It's something we can do together for an evening," Johnson said while wrapping a present. "It's about the joy of helping others and the fact that we're doing something other than sitting at home."
Volunteers are a crucial part of the continued success of the Good News of Christmas, said Eric Wait, Herald-Whig marketing manager and Good News coordinator. Wait said volunteers are needed now more than ever.
"There are a lot of great causes in our communities this time of year. The Good News of Christmas campaign is one of those," Wait said. "In our 29th year, we need more help than ever. We need volunteers to help shop for cases and wrap presents, but most importantly we need adoptions and monetary donations."
To adopt a case or volunteer, call the United Way HelpLine at 217-224-1223.
The Volunteer Center is in the Quincy Mall Community Room. The center is open through Dec. 13. Hours are from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Volunteer Center also will be open from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday.
Financial donations may be mailed to Good News of Christmas c/o Herald-Whig, P.O. Box 909, Quincy IL 62306.