ZANESVILLE -- In the midst of the holiday season's traditional spirit of giving, Shawn Torres is grateful he stumbled on a group that embodies this spirit year-round.
"I wanted to donate my free time to a good cause and give back to the community," he said.
Torres is new to the fold of the Zanesville Jaycees, but he's already experienced a wealth of rewards in his eight months with the nonprofit service organization.
"This impacts local families," he said. "A lot of good things happen so we can send things back out to the community. I know the fireworks (Stars and Stripes on the River) are a big thing, and so is this."
On Dec. 13, Torres experienced his first Christmas for Kids shopping tour to help children buy gifts for family members.
"I don't have any kids, but this was fun to watch them shop," he said. "Some knew exactly what they wanted."
Children Services referred 23 children to the Jaycees this year. Various fundraising events throughout the year -- including the Christmas for Kids Golf Outing -- helped fund the shopping trip at the Maple Avenue Wal-Mart and wrapping party at the club house featuring pizza from Domino's and a visit from Santa.
"The kids love it; they're excited about it all day," Jaycees President Shawn Antritt said. "It's nice to spread holiday cheer."
"I've been getting a lot of thank-yous from the kids, and that's nice to hear," three-year member Kyle Woerner said. "It's a good time. I like giving back to people, and there's always something going on with the Jaycees. I've also helped with Meals on Wheels and C-Day."
The Jaycees participate in various community events, fundraisers and volunteer efforts, including golf outings, scholarship giveaways to students, the Independence Day fireworks display known as Stars and Stripes on the River, donating items to the city of Zanesville and Zanesville Police Department, raffles, and donations to other charitable organizations. Other annual favorites include the C-Day collection for the Salvation Army and deliveries of meals to the homebound through Christ's Table on Thanksgiving.
"It's a mix of older and new activities," Antritt said. "It's getting harder to raise money, so we're trying to think of different things we can do. This year was the first for our Christmas for Kids golf outing. It raised about $1,000, a pretty good success.
"Our members also help out at the Jaycees Golf Course," he said. "We're always looking for new members. It's a good group of guys that love their community and want to support it by helping out any way they can. Right now we have about 25 members, and we're part of the Junior Chamber, with members under 40 years old."
Club Vice President Matt Joseph and Treasurer Jesse Rollins saw this organization as a perfect fit for themselves.
"I like the networking and meeting younger people in the business community," said Joseph, who is a three-year member.
"I moved here four years ago and made friends with these guys," Rollins said. "It's a great way to meet people. We do it all. People think it takes up a lot of time, but it's two meetings a month. And most employers like to see their employees involved in different things. The community benefits from this."