By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
An industrious group of volunteers were hard at work on Friday morning, transforming the Herb Sims Youth Center on Stadium Drive in Bluefield into a place where Christmas dreams will come true for about 800 youngsters courtesy of the Community Christmas Tree.
The 94th annual Christmas Tree party gets underway today at noon in the Bluefield City Auditorium on Stadium Drive with a musical show featuring Don Whitt and the Little Jimmie Band. After about 25 minutes of Christmas music, the show will include a visit from Santa before the doors to the Sims Youth Center open for the gift distribution.
“Right now, we have about 800 bags set up,” Chaz Cole said as he helped the group of volunteers place candy and other snacks in each toy-filled bag. “We started early this morning at about 8:30 a.m., bringing the bags and setting them up. The volunteers we have helping out have been great.”
Cole has been volunteering with the Community Christmas for several years. “I find myself getting more responsibility each year,” he said. “It gets easier every year.”
The Reverend Dr. W.D. Hasty was busy coordinating the work of several volunteers. “We have more volunteers coming in here all of the time,” Hasty said. “Some came, others have gone and I’m sure we’ll have more come in soon.”
Marcus Santoro, Justin Lightfoot and Isaac Carter — all members of the Bluefield High School football team, were helping to pack bags.
“I helped here last year, and I’m here again this year,” Carter said. “I like it. I also help at the Wade Center.”
Santoro said that seeing all of the presents in the bags is getting him in the Christmas spirit and Lightfoot said he enjoys helping. “It’s a good thing to do,” he said.
Paige Wilson, a student at Longview University, said that Chaz Cole asked her to volunteer last year, and this year, she invited her brother, Connor Wilson, a student at Graham High School. “When Chaz told me about this, I came here and had a good time,” Paige Wilson said. “That’s why I recruited my brother.”
Randy Mooney, publisher of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph was experiencing his first Community Christmas Tree. “I’ve never seen another program like this that is so specific to what each child wants,” Mooney said. “I don’t know of any others that do this.” He expressed thanks to all the Daily Telegraph readers who contributed to the party. “I haven’t seen the totals yet for this year, but last year we actually spent $40,000 on toys and we only raised $30,000. I guess that means we still have our work cut out for us.”
“These volunteers here are great,” Deloris French, herself a long-time volunteer said. “Don Rice is a work-a-holic and I remember Samantha when she was a little cheerleader at Montcalm High School. She’s gone from being a cheerleader to being the editor of the newspaper and in charge of all of this. She was a little ole jumping bean on the gymnasium floor and she has jumped into the fire of being a newspaper editor.”
Perry said that everything going well, “but right now, I’m all about batteries,” she said. “It’s going real well. Each year, we’re bound to have a few glitches, but we get them ironed out and keep on going. We really appreciate the Bluefield High School football and basketball players for helping us out. All the volunteers make this go so much more smoothly.”
Beginning balance ...............................$30,088.00
In memory of Patty Cochran by New Hope United Methodist Church......................$1,000.00
In memory of Lady P. Harley and Bear........................$20.00
New River Community and Technical College Mercer County Campus...........$250.00
In memory of my Dad, Paul Lightfoot by Mark Lightfoot ......................................$50.00
Sherwood Apartments ......................................$50.00