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300 families represented at annual Community Christmas Party

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The First United Methodist Church Christian Life Center was alive with activity this past weekend as once again it hosted the 11th Annual Community Christmas party.

This yearly event took place on Saturday, Dec. 8, with parties being conducted at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m.

According to Malinda Harris, chairperson of the event, around 1,800 people representing 300 families were served who had already pre-registered. At the 3 p.m. party, Harris noted that an estimated 1,800 people attended who were unable to pre-register, although an exact count is not known.

"We do not have an exact count. We had several register who did not show up but then we had more than we usually have who came at 3 p.m.," she said.

On hand at the party to help were 100 volunteers who helped assist in the selection of gifts as well as to gift wrap. Harris noted the generosity of the volunteers adding that some would be registered for one party and showed up early to help. She also commended the youth of the community who helped with the event. She added that some who were actually pre-registered for the party also helped in volunteering, helping other youth choose Christmas gifts for their parents.

This year there were 11 wrapping stations with 22 volunteers in all manning the stations.

Harris noted that so far $11,500 has been raised throughout the community but added that donations were still coming in.

"That's just monetary donations. That does not include all the toys and gifts that were donated. So, I'm guessing probably, value wise, probably about $20,000 worth of donations. That's what I'm guessing. We spent about $14,500 so we are still about $3,000 in the red that individuals will absorb if that money doesn't come in but monetary donations are still being accepted.

The Community Christmas Party is a joint effort that celebrates the season of giving which allows needy families of the area to visit the church where different rooms are designated as adult gift rooms and children's toy rooms.

For those families who participated, parents visited the children's rooms where gifts were selected for their children and in turn, the children were escorted to the adult room by a volunteer where they picked out gifts for their parents.

When asked about the history of the Community Christmas Party and how it got started, Harris said, "This party started 11 years ago through the Bootheel Human Needs Center. Monica that was the Director of the Human Needs Center started it and the first year they just put some gifts out and people just came and chose gifts and it was just kind of open. There weren't different sessions or anything like that and then gradually, it kind of grew into what it is today."

This was the 10th Annual Community Christmas Party and according to Harris, was a joint effort among various groups including local churches, civic groups, middle school and high school organizations, several businesses, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and people needing community service hours.

Registration for the event was coordinated through the Migrant Whole Health Outreach in Kennett who previously publicized the event, in conjunction with the Kennett Public School District, which sent out letters to all children registered in the local school system.

Various agencies which include local churches, civic groups, middle school and high school organizations, different businesses, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts as well as people who need community service, come together each year to help make Christmas a little brighter for the underprivileged of the area.

In closing, Harris noted, "I am very thankful that we live in such a generous community that we are able to support such an event for not only the families of Kennett but the surrounding areas. We have families from numerous surrounding towns and that we are able to provide an event where we can all come together as a community, not as individual churches, groups, [or] organizations. That we can come together and unite and put on such a fun Christmas event that is a blessing to so many families."

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