Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 1, 2013

Generous gift jump-starts launch of Community Christmas Tree campaign


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The Sunday after Thanksgiving brings a continuation of a rich tradition at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. It is on this day that we officially kick off our annual Community Christmas Tree campaign.

The fund drive is affectionately known by most as the “Little Jimmie” campaign. It’s a nod to the timeworn and tear-evoking drawing that always accompanies the A-1 story. Our readers empathize with the plight of Lil Jimmie, and the heart-wrenching thought of children going without at Christmas.

This year, we have once again set a fund-raising goal of $30,000. It’s a lot of money, but an amount that will allow for the purchase of toys, books, toboggans, gloves, treats and other goodies for the anticipated 825 children we expect to serve at our party on Saturday, Dec. 21.

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Last Wednesday was busy. In an effort to give employees more time with family on Thanksgiving Day, we go to press early. The newsroom was bustling, and I was attempting to push out a “live” editorial page.

When the telephone rang I did not recognize the number or area code. I hoped it wasn’t someone attempting to sell me a syndicated column or puzzle. Holidays are not a good time for sales calls.

The voice on the other end of the phone was familiar, but not one I knew well. As I struggled to place it, she said the magic words — “from Texas.” Recognition dawned, and excitement began to build.

The lady on the telephone — “the voice” — told me her employers contributed annually to the Community Christmas Tree campaign, and once again wanted to donate $10,000. She spoke the words so calmly. Meanwhile, my heart was beating frantically.

Let’s pause here for a moment as I ask you, our readers, what is the appropriate response when someone calls and says they are giving 10 grand to your charity? A mere “thank you” doesn’t seem like enough. My initial response was to squeal — and, trust me, I am not a squeal-with-joy kind of person. But that’s a lot of money — money that goes a long way in helping children in need in our community.

I managed to refrain from squealing, but I did say “thank you” many times as I struggled to convey just how much the donation meant to us, and how it would help kids in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. I spoke of the challenging economy and how so many families continue to struggle.

The donation is made by Phipps Mineral Holdings LTD, a company based in Corpus Christi. The people behind the donation always request to remain anonymous — something that speaks volumes about their high character and compassion.

The voice on the telephone told me she was overnighting a check and it should arrive on Friday. I think I said “thank you” again as I continued to struggle for the appropriate words.

Hanging up the phone I walked out of my office and into the newsroom. Throwing up my arms I yelled, “Ten thousand dollars!” All typing and conversation stopped as everyone looked at me quizzically. “Ten thousand dollars for Little Jimmie from our donor in Texas!”

Applause, smiles and comments of “Wow!” greeted the announcement. We all knew how far that money would go when purchasing toys for children registered for the party.

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During the first weekend of sign-ups 428 children were registered for the Community Christmas Tree party. Another round of registrations will be held this Friday, from 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Bluefield Auditorium on Stadium Drive.

We anticipate another 400-plus children will be signed up this weekend, which will push us well past the 800 mark for the party. And that does not include last-minute referrals from human service agencies and other charities.

Sadly, the need is great this year. But I am confident our readers will come through.

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In a strange twist of the calendar, this year’s Little Jimmie kickoff coincides with the week-long Prerogative-Daily Telegraph shelter drive. During this annual event, we collect dog and cat food, toys, treats, bedding and more to distribute to five animal shelters in the two Virginias. This year’s event will benefit the Mercer County Animal Shelter, the McDowell County Animal Shelter, the Tazewell County Animal Shelter, Pet Haven in Falls Mills, Va., and the Save A Pet Food Bank in Bluefield.

Last year readers generously donated 1,727 pounds of dog and cat food, 167 pounds of cat litter, 73 assorted bags of dog and cat treats, more than 214 dog and cat toys, 126 bags of bedding supplies and 26 bags of cleaning supplies for the local shelters. Those items went a long way in shoring up shelves for the cold winter. This year we hope we can collect just as much.

Those wishing to contribute can drop off items this week at the Daily Telegraph office, across from Hardees on Bluefield Avenue, and the Princeton Times, at 109 Thorn Street, Princeton. All items donated will be distributed to the shelters this Saturday.

We realize times are tough, and we appreciate the generosity of our readers who contribute to the Little Jimmie campaign and/or the animal shelter drive. Both of these charitable events are successful due to the compassionate nature of the people who call the two Virginias home.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.