By TAMMIE TOLER
Just as a wreath’s circular shape symbolizes the eternal life born at Christmas, the holiday decorations Appalachian Teen Challenge students sell each December represent lives that are turning full circle.
The faith-based rehabilitation center designed to help young men and women break the cycle of drug addiction also aims to instill a commitment to living a productive life. The annual Christmas campaign is just one step in their journeys, but it has become an important part of many local celebrations.
Late each November, the folks from Teen Challenge brave the sometimes-frigid southern West Virginia winter to sell their handmade evergreen wreaths from a Stafford Drive parking lot.
That tradition resumes Nov. 25 and will run through Dec. 17.
“It’s not only a tradition for our students. This is becoming a tradition for the community,” Appalachian Teen Challenge Director of Development Angela Rose said this week. “We have people that sit and wait on us every year, for the wreaths to come out.”
Six days a week, Teen Challenge students and leaders will man their festive booth in the Princeton Shopping Center parking lot, selling wreaths for $25 each, and Rose said all proceeds will benefit the center, which offers residential and kitchen facilities, classrooms, and a rural campus that includes its own woodworking, auto and maintenance shops.
These days, the Gardner campus resembles Santa’s workshop, as students work to keep the wreath showcase stocked.
“Our students make all of the wreaths,” Rose said.
Wednesday, students working in tidy assembly lines cut the branches from evergreen trees on their own tree lot, shaped them in neat circles and attached them to wired wreath forms — all inside a maintenance building that smelled delightfully of Christmas.
“It’s really exciting,” Teen Challenge student Greg Fail, of Lancaster, S.C., said, taking a break from his wreath-making station. “We get to help other people become part of the program, just like they helped us last year.”
Like most of the young men who assembled the wreaths Wednesday, this is Fail’s first year working with the holiday favorites, but he cheerfully completed his chores knowing that this time last year, someone else was making wreaths so that he could join the Teen Challenge family this year.
“We get to raise money for the program, so that others can benefit from it,” he explained, adding that it feels nice that Teen Challenge is indirectly part of the Christmas celebration for many local families.
As of mid-week, Rose said students had assembled approximately 300 wreaths, and she estimated they will complete 700 by the end of the wreath sale.
“People get really excited, and they’ve told us buying the wreaths start their Christmas season,” she said.
While the decorations are crafted from real evergreen branches, Rose said they will remain lovely long after Christmas.
“We have a lot of people who say they buy them every year, and they’re still nice in March,” she said.
The wreath display will open at 1 p.m., Friday and remain in business until 8 p.m. The schedule the rest of the season will run Monday-Friday, 1-8 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Local delivery is available by calling 304-384-9074.
“By purchasing you quality, handmade wreath, you are helping young people who have never felt love and acceptance find the hope they need to lead a productive life,” a post card promoting the wreath sale read this week.
— Contact Tammie Toler at firstname.lastname@example.org.