More than 600 to enjoy ‘Community Christmas’

Published 10:58 pm Thursday, November 6, 2008

Christmas will come early for more than 600 area children this year, thanks to the efforts of the hundreds of volunteers and gift-buyers who will participate in Andalusia Community Christmas.

Larry Avery, chairman of Andalusia Community Christmas, spoke to the Interagency Council Thursday about the major upcoming holiday event.

“The community is always very supportive of this event,” he said. “There are a lot of volunteers who offer their time, but what really makes this work are all of those who go out and buy the gifts for the kids.”

Andalusia Community Christmas is a project that provides gifts to children from low-income and other needy families, thanks to the generosity of members of the community. The event originally began as a small-scale project of the Kiwanis Club, but has grown to encompass a variety of civic clubs and other community organizations.

Avery explained that sometime later this month, local businesses will begin displaying paper angels, each of which will include information on a child’s “wish list” of gifts for Christmas. People who patronize the businesses are invited to take one or more angels home, and are then responsible for purchasing those gifts.

The gifts will need to be turned at the Kiwanis Building on either Fri., Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., or Sat., Dec. 6, from 9 a.m. to noon.

“Nearly every club does something to help out with Community Christmas,” Avery said. “The Civitan Club is kind of like our ‘baggers.’ They always help put the gifts in red bags for the children and make sure that there’s a fair balance among families. Some of our families have seven or eight children, and we want to make sure that everything is fair as far as the kind of gifts each child receives.”

Avery said that registration for families to participate in the program went successfully. Andalusia Community Christmas held its registration at local schools last weekend, and already 598 children have signed up. Children eligible to participate in the program must come from a family that has demonstrable need, and who lives in either the Andalusia, Straughn, Red Level or Pleasant Home school districts.

“We did our registration a little differently this year,” Avery said. “We were able to use the schools to stay open for a one-day registration and we’ve already gotten considerable interest. We’re probably going to have another 20-25 sign up later, but right now it doesn’t look like we’ll need to have any other public registration days.”

The gifts will be given to the children at a Christmas party Fri., Dec. 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Kiwanis Building. In addition to the reception of presents, the children will also enjoy a variety of activities including a visit from Santa Claus, tour of a fire engine and a pizza party.

Another major event that will take place that night will be the drawing for 150 bicycles.

“Every child has a chance to get a bike,” Avery said. “We keep a list of those who have won bicycles in previous years, and take them out of the drawing for a few years, so there aren’t any kids who win bikes year after year. We want to keep it fair and give every child a chance.”

Avery explained that Community Christmas is a tremendous undertaking that would not be possible without the help of donations from local civic clubs, as well as contributions from the Covington County United Fund and the Dixon Foundation. He also thanked the various community businesses that have agreed to display angels, although that list is not yet finalized.

Anyone who would like more information about Community Christmas or would like to still register his or her child to receive a gift can call the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce at 222-2030 or Sav-A-Life at 222-0644. Andalusia Community Christmas, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) organization and all donations are tax-deductible.

Donations may be sent to Andalusia Community Christmas, Inc., P.O. Box 1525, Andalusia, AL 36420.