Local Christmas programs open

by Cristin Parker cristin@thecherokeean.com

The spirit of giving is upon us and there are several ways Cherokee County residents can help make Christmas merry and bright for local children in need.

The Tree of Promise in Rusk has extended its deadline for Rusk ISD families to sign up for its annual Dream Tree program.

The non-profit is taking applications for Rusk families to be featured on this year’s Dream Trees through Friday, Nov. 22. Only children aging from birth to eighth grade living within the Rusk school district, including homeschooled children who live in RISD, are eligible.

“We know lots of our neighbors struggle to make ends meet throughout the year, and the holidays can make that struggle even more painful,” program organizer and Tree of Promise volunteer Kim Beathard said. “We are offering Rusk parents help to make their Christmas a little merrier.”

Official applications will be available through Friday, Nov. 22 and can be picked up from 9 a.m. to noon today at the Rusk Housing Authority Office, in the Rusk Civic Center, 555 Euclid St., Rusk; from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., today through Friday, at the Rusk Church of Christ office, 397 S. Main St., Rusk; and between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, at the Tree of Promise office, 125 E. Sixth St., on the square in Rusk. Parents will need to bring proof of residency within RISD; proof of number of children (report cards, SSN cards, etc.); proof of income, housing and utility receipts; and proof of unexpected expenses (hospital bills, etc.).

Jacksonville’s Children’s Christmas Tree (CCT) program has hit local banks and area secret Santas are urged to collect a child’s name from the tree and fulfill those Christmas wish lists.

The Children’s Christmas Tree program has been providing Christmas for Jacksonville children since 1982.

“Our mission is to keep the magic of Christmas alive in Jacksonville for the children in our community,” the organization’s Facebook page states. “We strive to find families in our town, that without us, would not have Christmas and through sponsorship make sure they do. With so much going on in the world, it is nice to believe, if just for one day, that wishes do come true.”

Elisha Ramos posted on CCT’s site, “If it wasn’t for the, my children would have Christmas the last two year. I thank you very much.”

Alto Economic Development Corporation’s third annual Toys For Tots campaign is also underway. Donation boxes have been distributed to local businesses and are ready to be filled.

“Drop any new, unwrapped toy in the designation boxes located usually in the storefront,” AEDC Director Kathi Davis said. “Boys and girls toys, interactive learning devices, sports gear, board and electronic games, puzzles and more, suitable for ages newborn to 14 years of age. Thanks in advance for any consideration in making a better Christmas morning for a child less fortunate! Merry Christmas!”

Davis added anyone willing to donate bigger ticket items like bicycles, gaming systems and the like are urged to contact her at the AEDC office, (936) 858-4412, to do so.

The program is open to families residing within the Alto school district. Anyone who would like to sign up to receive gifts through the program can visit Davis at the AEDC office, 410 Marcus St., Alto.

Cherokee County’s Rainbow Room also needs support to make the holidays merry and bright for local foster children.

Sponsored by the Cherokee County Child & Family Service Board, the Rainbow Room helps provide the Department Of Family and Protective Services with supplies like clothes, personal hygiene products and gifts for local foster children.

“The needs are many and the number of those in need is growing,” longtime CCCFS board member Shirley Reese said. “Every Christmas each year we have a huge Christmas party -- Santa even comes! Each child from Cherokee County that is in conservatorship of CPS will receive $100 for the purchase of Christmas gifts. Our county commissioners help financially through their annual budget but this is just a small portion of what is spent or actually needed. Assistance from the community is needed and is always greatly appreciated.

Mail monetary donations to The Cherokee County Child & Family Service Board, 3115 CR 3306, Jacksonville, TX 75766; make checks payable to the Cherokee County Child & Family Service Board. CCCFSB is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization.

The Rainbow Room is located in the 1037 SE Loop 456, in Jacksonville.