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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Christmas Cheer readies holiday for needy in area
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More than 90 volunteers form an assembly line to fill 1,000 food boxes for Christmas Cheer on Saturday morning. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Monday, December 8, 2008

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Christmas Cheer's elves are busy packing food boxes and shopping for presents to ensure families in Martinsville and Henry County have a bright holiday.

"We could not do this without the community's support," said Ralph Lawson, one of the event organizers. "The community comes through for us each year" with donations to fund the project, he added.

This year, as last, the organization hopes to raise $50,000 and help 1,000 less fortunate families.

"We will certainly spend that amount," Lawson said.

Each family will receive a food box filled with dried goods such as beans and noodles, staples such as flour and sugar, and lots of cans of vegetables, soups, muffin/cake mix and cookies, Lawson said.

"It's a tremendous amount of food," he said.

Helpers already have racked up a $29,000 grocery receipt at Food Lion, and Lawson said that was a discounted price.

The organization also has spent $4,000 for blankets, and one blanket will be included in each box, Lawson said.

Larger families will receive an extra food box, packed with nonperishable food stuffs collected by students in city and county schools.

Because those food drives are ongoing, Lawson said he does not yet know how much food will be collected.

Children from infants to age 18 also each will receive a handmade Christmas gift.

Cheer elves will "build a box for each, depending on age and needs," Lawson said.

Toy shopping will not be completed until after Big Bird's Toy Ride on Dec. 13, and "we'll also buy diapers, formula and other stuff like that" for babies, Lawson said.

Donations are a little slower this year but "we expected that," he said. He anticipates that contributions will pick up in the next three weeks as they traditionally have done.

Wednesday was the last day to apply for Christmas Cheer food and gifts, and Lawson said he does not yet know how many families asked for help.

All applicants will be screened by a committee of law enforcement officers, attorneys and other professionals in the community, he said.

Committee members will determine eligibility and work with other organizations doing similar projects, such as the Elks club, to ensure no one receives a double portion, Lawson said.

"Generally, some applicants are easy to deny because they earn too much income," Lawson said. However, "we usually try to so something for everyone" who qualifies, he said.

Donations of any amount of money "are both needed and appreciated," Lawson said.

The agency does not have a telephone. To contact it, write or mail donations to: Christmas Cheer, P.O. Box 540, Martinsville, Va., 24114.


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