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Years ago when I first joined the Bluefield Daily Telegraph staff, I was introduced to the Community Christmas Tree and a cartoon featuring a crying little boy called Little Jimmie. A girl I assume is his big sister is trying to comfort him with the assurance that maybe Santa Claus will come next year. The cartoon was drawn years ago, but the idea of a child waking up on Christmas morning to see an empty stocking is still a heartbreaker. Jimmie’s probably wondering how Santa could pass him by when he’s worked so hard to be good.

Our executive editor, the late Tom Colley, soon had me doing Little Jimmie stories every day along with the rest of the news staff. We chronicled the steadily growing amount of donations and felt the tension as the deadline approached. Would we reach the goal? We’ve always reached it thanks to local generosity, but this year the Community Christmas Tree needs more than usual. As of Wednesday, the program still needed more than $16,000 to meet the $40,000 goal. It’s a bigger goal due to the operating expenses and the greater anticipated need. Thanks to the country’s economic situation, families are having a harder time balancing their budgets and getting enough money together to make Christmas happen.

Reporters often get to see many behind-the-scenes activities that most of public never gets to witness. I’ve been at crash scenes, the scene of a plane crash, in press conferences with public figures and I’ve even climbed up a submarine’s conning tower. You see a lot of tragedy, but you see a lot of good events, too. Watching the Community Christmas Tree party is one of those events.

The operation involves logistics worthy of Santa’s workshop. Volunteers shop for the toys and other volunteers stuff these toys and other gifts into red Christmas bags. Gloves, hats, books, treats, candy and other gifts are added to enhance the Christmas experience.

Of course, the bags have to be organized so the right gifts go to the right child. Each bag has a number corresponding to a color-coded card. Like most other folks at the Telegraph, I’ve filled out the cards and counted them. Each card represents a child who wants something for Christmas.

I’ve always wondered how families explain to these children how their Christmas presents arrive through the Community Christmas Tree and not down the chimney like Santa’s other deliveries. I’d probably say that it’s a special operation put together by all the people inspired by Santa’s generosity. It’s the truth. Of course, it helps that Santa is always in attendance at the Little Jimmie party. (A special thank you and shout-out to Judge Omar Aboulhosn.)

One of us always writes a story on the day of the Community Christmas Tree party in the Bluefield Auditorium. Local musicians entertain the children and their families while the last preparations are underway, and Santa Claus arrives to visit the children and give the day his seal of approval. It’s always a big moment when Santa Claus makes his big appearance.

I always like watching the little kids. They’re so excited about seeing Santa and receiving the presents. That’s when all the hard work and the donations pay off. Hundreds of children experience Christmas cheer when the big day arrives, and I know they love the big party.

Monetary donations are needed to make the Christmas party happened and fill those gift bags. I know times are difficult, but the donations do not have to be huge. This is one of those instances when even modest donations of a few dollars add up to truly make a difference. The Community Christmas Tree has received donations in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars in the past, but the small donations push the fund drive to its goal. Just a few dollars equal a Christmas present for a child in need of one.

Yes, I know I’m pulling on heartstrings, but I have to imagine that Little Jimmie cartoon being played out in real life because there were not enough funds to fill some gift bags. What do you tell children who didn’t get anything for Christmas? It’s not a challenge I would want to meet. Just thinking about a disappointed child on Christmas morning depresses me. When I see that Little Jimmie editorial cartoon, I feel just as bad for the big sister as I do for Little Jimmie. Having to explain that empty stocking would be heartbreaking.

We hope enough donations will arrive in time to meet this year’s goal and fill all the gift bags going to area children who need some joy on Christmas morning. It’s a big world with a lot of kids, and Santa needs some help to make sure a lot of Christmas wishes come true. The bags have arrived, but now comes the big task of filling them up and getting them ready for distribution. Now is the time to lend a hand and make sure some toys and other gifts arrive in time for Christmas.

Greg Jordan is senior reporter for the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com.

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