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Not forgotten at Christmas

A woman who makes sure all children have a Christmas

Christmas was a long time coming for Peggy Hubbard, but when it finally found her she began sharing its joy with hundreds of children in Lincoln County who were at risk of being forgotten at Christmas, as she once was.

Her alcoholic father abandoned her mother and their eight children when Peggy was too young to remember, and her mother died of cancer when Peggy was 4.

The last words she heard her mother say were, “Kids, be quiet, because Momma’s very sick.”

Click the image to read classic columns by Kentucky literary legend, Byron Crawford. PHOTO BY TIM WEBB

After her mother died a few hours later, Peggy thought for a long time that if they had only been quiet, their mother might have lived.

No one came forward to take the four boys and four girls, who were moved from their home in Floyd County to an orphanage in Virginia. The one time their father came to see them, one of Peggy’s older brothers ran after the car, crying, as his father was leaving—and she remembers the home’s superintendent making the other children watch as he switched the boy until his legs bled.

The children were eventually put out of the home due to a lack of funding for their care. One of Peggy’s brothers hitchhiked back to eastern Kentucky to find someone to come get them.

So began life for a little girl from the mountains in the late 1940s. And it would not get much better for several years.

The children later lived by themselves in what had once been a chicken house, and where three of the children died—Peggy’s little sister, it was believed, from malnutrition and complications from a rat bite on her toe while she was sleeping.

At age 13, Peggy managed to get to Lexington and was taken in by a family whose children she helped care for. She married while still in her early teens and moved with her husband, Donald, to Cincinnati, where they both worked and where she had her first Christmas.

The couple moved to Lincoln County in 1976 to care for Don’s aging mother, and later established a successful hardware business. Then Peggy, a member of Inter-County Energy, started her own annual charity event, Winterfest, for Lincoln County children who might not have a Christmas.

Using much of her own money in the early years, and what donations that came her way, she bought truckloads of gifts for children in need who’d been identified only by age and gender.

Since the late 1980s, thousands of children have had gifts under a large Christmas tree, a Christmas dinner, treats, and a visit with Santa.

A former Lincoln County Citizen of the Year, Peggy, 70, is now the caregiver for Don, who has a debilitating illness. But Winterfest continues under the supervision of community leaders, with generous donations from local businesses.

It is a legacy of giving from the heart of a woman who remembers what it was like to be forgotten at Christmas.

 

Art by Melissa Warp.

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