WVVA Hometown Hero: Siblings lead community effort to keep Coal Camp Christmas Program alive

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 8:26 AM EST
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Montcalm, West Virginia - (WVVA-TV)  Coal camps were plentiful in southern West Virginia in the 1960s, each, virtually self-contained communities.  Montcalm in Mercer county was one.  The physician there, Dr. William Prudich and his wife Phyllis started a Christmas Tree program for the children and families in need.  Dr. Pruidich continues to work with other community leaders to continue the holiday tradition until his death in the late 1990s.  For several years community members spearheaded the effort to meet the needs of Montcalm’s children at Christmas, but when Dr. Prudichs’ children were approached to get involved; they answered that call.  Maria Webster is one of Dr. Pruidichs’ children, “We weren’t involved with it for many years, when the community leaders took over. We were all busy raising our families. So it was so nice to be able to come back and do it with my brothers and sisters and my nieces and nephews. I mean it’s a family event. They all pitch in.” said Webster.

While the Hometown hero nomination names Maria Webster, she is quick to point out that she is not on a solo mission to make Christmas brighter for the kids at Montcalm Elementary School where she works as the school nurse, “Our principal here, Sharon Reed talked us into taking back over, so me and my sister, Susan Jennings, and my brother, Gregory prudish, took it over again, but again, with the help of everybody,” Webster said.

Montcalm Elementary is where the holiday program culminates in the week before Christmas, but the work to gather the gifts on the wish lists of the children starts long before the holiday program passes out presents and food to families.  Webster says there’s no random shopping for the children’s gifts, “We try to get the kids what they ask for because they would rather have one big item that they really want than five small items they, they don’t. Particularly, you know kids, kids want what they want. So it’s really nice when you know that they got what they wanted,” said Webster.

The volunteers who help with the program get the same payoff as Webster and her siblings when the Montcalm Christmas Tree Program begins at the school befor the holiday break, “It’s really heartwarming and it makes you feel fulfilled. You can see all the hard work that everybody puts in and I don’t know, it just makes, it just makes it all worthwhile. And the kids, if you could see the window here at the school, we have a lot of windows. When that fire truck comes up with Santa and those kids press their little faces up against the window, everybody just melts. I mean it is just a wonderful feeling,” Webster said.  Keeping the wonderful feeling alive for Montcalm Elementary School students at Christmas is why Maria Webster, her siblings, and everyone who helps are WVVA Hometown Heros.