By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Community Christmas Tree volunteers finalized their plans Thursday for the 95th annual Little Jimmie party with a goal of helping more than 750 children across the region who would otherwise go without this holiday season.
The volunteers who gathered in the Daily Telegraph’s conference room were able to work out the final details for this year’s Community Christmas Tree party, which will be held on Friday, Dec. 21, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Bluefield City Auditorium. The Daily Telegraph has sponsored the annual Little Jimmie party since 1917. The campaign provides holiday toys, gifts, books, gloves, toboggans, food and other treats to hundreds of local children in need each year.
Those members of the Community Christmas Tree Committee in attendance at Thursday’s organizational meeting included committee chair and Daily Telegraph Editor Samantha Perry, Publisher Darryl Hudson and newspaper staff members Bill Archer, Natalie Fanning and Terri Hale, along with community volunteers Charlie Cole and his son Chaz, Rev. W.D. Hasty, Lynn and Carl Burnette and Jack Necessary with East River Street Rods. Long-time volunteers Delores French, Michele Colley, Jim Dent and Don Rice also will once again be helping with this year’s campaign.
“I think last year’s party went very smoothly,” Perry said. “There is no way we could pull this off without the volunteers. When looking at the dates, I set the party for Friday (Dec. 21) since Monday is Christmas Eve and Tuesday is Christmas.”
“The shoppers aim for $50 a bag — some will be more,” Hudson said. “We can’t be extravagant, but we want to make sure the children get what they want.”
Perry shared a story of Hudson’s generosity at last year’s party with the group.
“There was one little boy, and there had been a mix up, and we gave him one bag but he really wanted a skateboard,” Perry said. “So after the party, Darryl went and bought him a skateboard.”
“It gets better every year,” Cole said of the planning and organization of the Little Jimmie party.
Cole said his son Chaz, who has been helping with the Community Christmas Tree since he was in high school, will once again be volunteering at the Dec. 21 party.
Necessary said many of the older children, or those in the 9- to 12-age group, will often request electronics, or video games in particular. The East River Street Rods will once again be purchasing gifts for the 11- to-12-year-old kids.
“The Bluefield High School students we had last year helping with the setup and at the party were wonderful. They are always great, but last year they were just exceptional,” Perry said.
“That’s because they have little brothers and sisters and know what the popular toys are,” Cole said. “The kids are a little closer to that age group. They know what the popular toys are.”
All of the toys for this year’s Little Jimmie Party will once again be purchased at the Bluefield Kmart by six different shopping teams. Perry said Daily Telegraph Lifestyles Editor Jamie Parsell will once again be preparing a list of popular gifts to help assist those registering children for this year’s party.
The committee members discussed a number of minor “tweaks” to this year’s party in order to ensure the more than 750 children served by the annual Little Jimmie party are afforded a joyous Christmas.
The group set a campaign goal this year of $30,000.
As was the case last year, two different sign-up periods will be held for this year’s Little Jimmie party.
This year’s sign-up dates will be held on Friday, Nov. 16, from 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both at the city auditorium in Bluefield. A second weekend of sign-ups will be held on Friday, Nov. 30, from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., also at the city auditorium in Bluefield.
Don Whitt, a 53-year veteran Community Christmas Tree performer, will once again be providing the musical entertainment for this year’s party along with Archer.
As in past years, the Community Christmas Tree campaign will officially kick off on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving with the names of the campaign donors being published on the front page of the newspaper each day, as well as on http://bdtonline.com.
— Contact Charles Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org.