As in years past, companies, churches, civic clubs, schools and individuals sign on to sponsor a child or children or provide non-perishable food items for a food basket for an elderly or disabled person. Toys are bought for the children, food baskets are assembled and distribution begins on Tuesday, Dec. 2.
Harding noted that “certain parts of Wilson County have been hit hard by the economy now,” and he hopes that all who can will step up this year to help others less fortunate have a merrier Christmas. “This has always been a good community about Christmas time,” he added.
Although Wilson County Christmas for All has been operating since about 2000, its roots go back further. It goes back so far that no one can really remember how long Wilson County residents have been organizing each year to provide toys for children at Christmas.
Most people do remember, however, that Lebanon Fire Department has long gathered and repaired toys for children and the Department of Human Services helped families through a volunteer effort.
The needs of families began to outgrow the space and time available to DHS employees and volunteers to assist about 15 years ago, and Joanne Smith, former director of the county DHS began looking for a group to take over the volunteer effort. The BellSouth Pioneers agreed to take over the project with the help of the DHS office and continued until 2000.
As membership in the BellSouth Pioneers began decreasing, a group of local citizens saw that the program needed to continue and with the guidance of Smith who organized the volunteers, Wilson County Christmas for All became a reality.
The Wilson County Help Center agreed to oversee the program, but several years later, as the program grew, the Christmas for All committee and the Help Center decided to incorporate Christmas for All which is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity.
“It gets to be larger and larger,” Harding said, noting the board and some volunteers have been meeting regularly and planning for the past two months.
Part of the work during the years has involved in working together with two other organizations in Wilson County that also provide help to the less fortunate at Christmas. They are the Angel Tree program in Watertown and the West Wilson Big Brothers organization in Mt. Juliet.
“Over the years, we’ve developed a good system,” he said, in the county of serving as a “clearinghouse to eliminate as much duplication as possible.”
For example, he said, representatives of each organization let each other know the names of the children or families they have so one group is responsible for that individual or family. If Christmas for All receives a name of a child in Watertown who is need of some toys, that child’s name is forwarded to Angel Tree officials who handle it from there.
Harding noted that representatives of the three programs work together and attend each others meetings so everyone is kept informed. “It just works real well.”
Christmas for All will be in the Turner Evans Building at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon again this year where the distribution of toys and food baskets will be held Dec. 2-18. Administrative functions are performed in the Wilson County Promotions, Inc. office. Harding said he wanted to thank Larry Tomlinson of the Ward Ag Center and officials with Wilson County Promotions for their help each year.
Among getting sponsors, collecting and purchasing toys and other duties that need to be done, Harding said Christmas for All officials are working hard “to be good stewards” of the program and the funds that are contributed each year. They work hard to make sure that those who register are, in fact, residents of Wilson County and that the program’s requirements are met.
In addition to providing for children, Harding noted a special effort has been made for purchases for teenagers who are registered. He said emphasizing the needs of teenagers during the Christmas for All program in 2007 was successful and he hopes that continues this year.
Applications for toys or food baskets are available at the DHS office at 712 N. Cumberland Street, Lebanon. Once an application is completed and turned in, the information is put into the database and provided to sponsors. Deadline for applications to be received is Wednesday, Dec. 10.
If you would like to be a sponsor this year, call 547-1106. If you would like to make a monetary donation, you may do so by sending a check to Wilson County Christmas for All, P.O. Box 922, Lebanon, TN 37088.
Volunteers to assist with sorting, packing and distribution are needed. There will be a volunteer training session at 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 1 in the Turner Evans Building at the Ward Ag Center.
In the meantime, efforts continue to make the program this year another success. Lebanon Fire Department, Christmas for All’s largest sponsor which provides toys for some 400 children each year, is set to hold its annual Roadblock Fund raiser on Sunday, Nov. 23, and will hold another fund raising event on Friday, Nov. 28 at Walmart on South Cumberland Street.
If you would like more information on how you can help this year, call 547-1106.
Editor Jennifer Horton may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.