December 30, 2010
• Holiday store all about giving
This is the 16th year of the Clydesdale Christmas Store, which gives a full wish list of toys and clothes to hundreds of children.
The total dollar figure raised for gifts for children since the benefit’s beginning is about $1 million, said Ralph Doxey with the Clydesdale committee.
The need is always there as families and little dear ones get to really enjoy a Christmas due to the year-long efforts of the Clydesdale Christmas Store committee and volunteers. They spend all year fund-raising and taking donations, then two months shopping weekly before Christmas.
If accepted, the child makes a list of what he or she wants for Christmas and Santa’s elves go to work to try to find the exact item right down to the color requested.
Trikes and bikes are favorite requests of the kids.
While they wait for their turn to sit on Santa’s knee and see their toys pulled out of Santa’s big bag, families gather in the front of the Christmas Store to enjoy cookies and drinks. The wait can be long, but it’s well worth it.
The Clydesdale Christmas Store is a unique ministry, according to Rev. Milton Whatley, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Holly Springs.
“I’ve been in the ministry 30 years and this is the most creative and unique way to bless kids,” he said. “I think it’s fabulous. And the kids you give to, you are creating givers in the future.”
“We have close to 300 children this year,” said Ronnie Luther, who with his wife Brenda 16 years ago began the benefit to bring a smile to a face. “All the shopping, the festivals and the fund-raisers - that’s what it’s all about.”
“We pray for a smile, because we know we have been given to,” said Whatley. “We pray for a little hope. We are blessed, blessed people.”
Before the festivities began and following Whatley’s prayer, Sgt. James Hamblin, with the Holly Springs National Guard Unit, presented the Clydesdale Store with an American flag that flew for a day over the Q-West Air Base near Mosul in northern Iraq. The facility is used by the Allied Forces including the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.
Doxey remarked at how fortunate the Clydesdale Store is to have received the flag, considering that only 365 are flown a year over the base and they are distributed over the entire nation. He said requests for a U.S. flag flown over the capitol building in Jackson has to be made years in advance because the number available compared to the number requested is so small.
“We are very honored to receive this flag,” he said.
Doxey joined the Clydesdale Christmas Store the second year by gathering up good toys their children no longer needed and donating them to the store to be distributed by Brenda and Ronnie Luther. From there the Clydesdale Store has grown yearly and has been joined by Harmontown, which served about 200 kids this Christmas.
In her 16th year with the Clydesdale committee as a volunteer, Lynn Hogan loves to be one of Santa’s volunteer elves.
“Oh, my goodness,” she said. “This makes my Christmas. This is a blessing. I am an original elf.”
Liz Hamblin agreed.
“Oh, gosh, it’s just great enjoyment to be able to help out and give back to the community,” she said.
Doxey showed off one of his own Christmas gifts from his wife, Jean, a Christmas album by Britain’s Susan Boyle.
“This is our 15th year and it was started by Brenda and Ronnie Luther on their own,” he said. “Jeanie and I had some leftover toys and it evolved into this. We’ve raised a little over $1 million since we’ve begun doing this. It’s no effort. Every bit of it is worth it.”
Doxey thanked the Holly Springs National Guard Armory for providing the space for the annual event.
“They turn this over to us for two weeks,” he said. “There is no way we could set this up in a day.”
Deputy Tamara Jeffries with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department worked security this year. It was her first encounter with the Christmas Store.
“This is my style,” she said. “It makes me feel good to see the reaction to this.”
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