Hamilton's Giveaway is being called a rousing success, with more than 1,100 people each gathering a sack full of free items in just three hours on Dec. 2.

The fifth annual Giveaway was held at the Hamilton Middle School with more than 95 tables of merchandise, 30 clothing racks, and free prizes that were donated by community members.

“They were literally wrapped around the building well before that 9 a.m. opening, and it took 45 minutes to get everybody in that was outside,” said Denise Echterling, event organizer. “If the population of Hamilton is 4,300, from a count in 2010, and we figure 25 percent of the people walked through those doors – that is amazing.”

The Giveaway, a gift to the community by The Place Church, had people from Sula to Missoula attend the event and fill a sack. A complete living room set with two couches, an arm chair, a television, and Christmas wreaths was won by one lucky guest. More than 20 people won new small kitchen appliances.

“We had 150 volunteers on Friday and Saturday,” Echterling said. “The volunteers have a heart to serve. Local businesses gave diapers, formula, and cleaning supplies – which I didn’t think it would go, but within 45 minutes that one table with new items was gone.”

Echterling said people were quite gracious.

“Children would find one toy and say ‘I’m fine this is all I need,’” she said. “I don’t even do that when I go to the grocery store. It was amazing how much people loved it.”

Pastor Jesse Haynie said it was a special event.

“We had two sisters volunteer for the first time and at 8:30 a.m. they couldn’t see the people lined up and thought no one was coming. Right at nine we opened the doors and their mouths dropped open for the next hour as people piled in,” Haynie said. “They couldn’t believe it. They said ‘We had no idea.’”

Echterling said it was a normal response for people to come in to the gym and just stop to look.

“They were just amazed there were so many items and everything was free,” she said. “It shows the need.”

Pastor Mike Echterling said people were amazed and the amount of items collected for the event and told him he would not be able to get rid of it all.

“But we did,” he said proudly.

At the end of the event, two pick-up trucks of leftover items went to Ravalli Services.

“We’ve already been asked by the Hamilton Middle School to be there next year,” Denise Echterling said. “I want people to know ‘thank you’ for all the volunteering and donations from the Hamilton UPS Store, Green’s Mini Storage, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, Safeway, Albertson’s, Hamilton Christian Academy, Beck Builders, SAFE House, 1240 KLYQ-AM Hamilton, Mountain Peak Dental, Domino’s Pizza, Corvallis School District, Exit Realty Bitterroot Valley and the community.”

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