Each year I fret about it for a couple months. Well, dread it for a couple of months might be a better way to put it.
In the end, though, it always works out.
I’m talking about Sharing at Christmas, the Gazette’s annual holiday fundraising program that helps make the holidays brighter for many families in need.
It all starts at the beginning of November when we try to figure out what sort of fundraising season its going to be so we can make a guess at how many families we can help with groceries, toys and blankets.
The campaign kicks off the week before Thanksgiving when the little red thermometer starts appearing on the front page of the Gazette, announcing how much money has been donated.
But raising money is only a part of the task that has grown through the years into a major undertaking for lots of volunteers.
The applications of families who ask for help are screened and narrowed to focus on the most needy.
Then the work begins of determining the age and gender of children in those families. Volunteers shop for blankets for the elderly and toys for children who are 10 or younger, and then carefully bag them with the name and address where they are to be delivered.
Thousands of pounds of groceries are ordered to supply each family with a holiday dinner. But in addition to the turkey breast, potatoes, cranberry jelly, canned green beans, corn, peas, bread and dessert mixes, there are bags of apples and oranges, peanut butter and jelly, cereal, and more, so there will be plenty for the next couple of days, too.
Ten days ago work began at the former National Guard Armory as 216 large corrugated boxes were taped up and set out in rows on the concrete floor by reporter Angie Barmer and me.
On Monday, Dec. 17, a semi-trailer loaded with pallet after pallet of groceries backed up to the armory.
The truck was unloaded by trustees from the Union County Jail (with a little help from son Joe, who is out of class at Ole Miss for the holidays).
The groceries were distributed among the boxes and then Wednesday morning turkey breasts were added to the mix.
In the next four hours, volunteers including Union County employees, sheriff’s deputies, city utility-department employees, and city police set out across the county delivering the boxes, bagged toys and blankets.
By Wednesday afternoon all of the holiday boxes had been delivered and several hundred people were going to have a better holiday because of Sharing at Christmas.
And the little red thermometer on the front page of the Gazette had climbed to nearly $15,000, a tribute to the caring people who respond to the plea each year.
I had underestimated the generosity of our community.
We will have some carryover and should be able to help an even greater number of families next Christmas.
I went home proud of our community – and tired and achy. It was definitely a two-Advil evening.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.