Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
An estimated 100 children who will benefit from an annual Children's Christmas Tree project still are seeking sponsors, according to coordinator Bobbie Haight.
“Generally we have a really good response, (but) right now we've got 103 kids who haven't been adopted,” she said, explaining that local banks set out Christmas trees with ornaments that have recipients' names and requested gifts written on them.
The project began in 1985, started by Haight's daughter and a school teacher friend of theirs, helping an estimated 250-300 children per year who otherwise might not receive Christmas gifts. In late October, volunteers begin taking applications from families in need, who are vetted through school, social service programs and work sources.
While it's up to sponsors to wrap gifts, they are advised to bundle them if they have more than one for the child they've bought items for.
“Most people are real good about putting items in one box and wrapping it, or putting things into big bags and grouping them,” Haight said. “It helps us to keep things organized for our families.
Members of the local fire department will gather items from banks 2 p.m. Dec. 20, then deliver them to volunteers set up at the Norman Center.
This year, people also can drop them off at the center if they miss the 2 p.m. deadline, Haight said.
“We're trying to make it as easy as possible for them,” she said.
Gifts will be sorted that evening, then on Dec. 21, volunteers will visit the local WalMart to shop for any children who did not receive gifts using donations that come in year-round. “We try to fill these lists as much as we can with donated toys and items that people have given us,” she said.
Families are then invited to pick up their gifts at the Norman Center on Dec. 22.
While sponsors must return gifts to the banks where they picked up ornaments with children's names or to the Norman Center by Dec. 20, monetary contributions may be made year-round to the “Children's Christmas Tree Fund” at Austin Bank, or mailed to P.O. Box 2271, Jack-sonville, TX, 75766.