Students, community members helping to make the holidays brighter for some local families

"I went around the jail and explained to everyone what I wanted to do and started collecting money," Muller said. "It wasn't long before I had about $850 and with that money, I got those kids whatever they asked for."

The generosity from his co-workers has increased year after years, said Muller, with this year being the best ever. In September, Muller and his co-workers hosted Santa's Holiday Express, a first annual motorcycle ride and barbecue, to raise money for Holiday Cares.

"It was great. We raised about $3,500," said Muller.

That amount is important, he said, as the correctional facility's employees now help other schools during the holidays in addition to Beekmantown.

"We've helped the elementary schools in Keeseville, Saranac, [Northern Adirondack]. We're helping [Momot] this year," said Muller. "We help about 15-20 kids per school. But, we always do Beekmantown, where we started."

Kelting said Muller has "gone above and beyond" to spread the word about Holiday Cares and to raise money for the program. "Mr. Muller's contributions have always been extremely generous," said Kelting. "Without Mr. Muller's contribution, we would not be able to provide such an array of gifts for each family. "

"He has fostered the spirit that it is better to give than to receive," she added.

This year's collection has been overwhelming, said Kelting, who noted the program aims to help 17 families this Christmas. Already, in addition to Muller and his co-workers, businesses like Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Cumberland 12 Cinemas have stepped up to provide donations.

That kind of support is something that will make a world of difference in a child's life, said Kelting.

"The reason we do this year after year, is because of the great satisfaction it brings to help those in need," she said. "[And] to see a child come back from vacation with a new coat and warm boots with their eyes twinkling all excited to tell you about what a great Christmas they had makes it all worth while."

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