By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Community Christmas Tree volunteers met Wednesday at the Daily Telegraph to finalize their plans for the 96th annual Little Jimmie party. The volunteers expect to help more than 825 children across the region who would otherwise go without this holiday season.
This year’s Community Christmas Tree party will be held on Saturday, 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.
This year’s party is being moved to a Saturday because students will still be in school on Friday, Dec. 20. Complicating matters is the fact that Christmas Eve is Tuesday, Dec. 24, and Christmas is Wednesday, Dec. 25.
“We are going to have to have the party on a Saturday because the children will still be in school on Friday and Christmas hits on a Wednesday,” Community Christmas Tree Committee chair and Daily Telegraph Editor Samantha Perry said. “As always, we appreciate all of the volunteers who support the Community Christmas Tree and help make it happen each year, as well as the generosity of our readers who contribute to the campaign each year.”
Those members of the Community Christmas Tree Committee in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting included Perry; Daily Telegraph Publisher Randy Mooney; newspaper staff members Bill Archer, Natalie Fanning and Terri Hale; community volunteers Charlie Cole and his son Chaz; Don Rice; Rev. W.D. Hasty; Don Whitt, Mercer County Circuit Court Judge Omar Aboulhosn; and Michele Colley and Zoe Colley. Zoe Colley is the granddaughter of the late Daily Telegraph Editor Tom Colley, and has the unique distinction of being a life-long Little Jimmie volunteer. Other long-time volunteers also helping with this year’s campaign include Delores French, Jim Dent and Lynn and Carl Burnette.
Whitt, a 54-year veteran Community Christmas Tree performer, will once again be providing the musical entertainment for this year’s party along with Archer.
Anticipating a great need for assistance among area families, the group expects to serve about 825 children at this year’s party.
“Based upon last year’s numbers we are anticipating serving 825 children,” Perry said. “That number can vary based upon sign-ups, but we expect it to be around 825.”
Chaz Cole, who has been helping with the Community Christmas Tree since he was in high school, proposed having football and basketball players from Bluefield High School work as porters to help families with multiple red bags carry the items to their vehicles.
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. The committee members also discussed a number of minor adjustments to this year’s party in order to ensure the 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. Parents can sign up their children on Friday, Nov. 22, from 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the city auditorium in Bluefield both days. A second weekend of sign-ups will be held on Friday, Dec. 6, from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., also at the city auditorium in Bluefield.
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