The basketball court at Missouri United Methodist Church turned into a festive ground decorated with red balloons and volunteer elves wearing Santa hats in the middle of July.

Voluntary Action Center hosted its 28th Christmas in July Picnic on Thursday. The doors opened at 5:30 p.m., and participants were welcomed with a heartfelt picnic.

People dined on fried chicken, beans, potato salad and bread rolls. As they enjoyed their meal, coloring pages and crayons were provided on every table for kids to play with.

On stage, kids also lined up to meet Santa and entertain themselves with arts and crafts.

Mary Ouart helped with planning the kid-friendly activities. She is a member of the church and has been volunteering for this event for four years now.

She said the event always has two tables of arts and crafts as well as book donations for the children.

This year, there were Rudolphs made out of donuts, pretzels and cherries, scratch-out stars for Christmas ornaments and books from Scholastic Books in Jefferson City.

“The event has been pretty consistent,” Ouart said. “We enjoy gathering people from the community. It’s just a happy time.”

VAC puts on the event every year to raise awareness within the community that there are needs all year round and not just during the holiday season.

The event hopes to raise funds for the center to provide help to low-income residents in Boone County.

Nick Foster, the executive director of VAC, said they usually raise between $15,000 and $17,000 every year.

“Last year, we raised a little over $17,000 from this event, and that’s sort of what we hope to do again this year,” he said.

He estimated around 350 guests showed up to Christmas in July this year.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” Foster said. “The outreach is to our clients and the clients of other agencies who serve folks ... struggling in the community.”

Charla Cowans attended the event with her grandson, who is temporarily staying with her in Columbia. She heard about it from her employer Great Circle which is a mental heath organization for children and adults.

She said in her opinion the event is their way of giving back to the community with the food, gifts and Santa Claus.

“Everybody brings people together as well to socialize,” Cowans said.

Although this is her first time participating, she expressed her excitement to return the following years.

Raffle tickets are still available on sale until Wednesday. Tickets can be purchased on the VAC website.

Supervising editor is Libby Stanford.

  • General assignment reporter, Summer 2019. Studying Magazine Design. Reach me at, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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