Community readies for Quitman Christmas Sharing program
Quitman Christmas Sharing, Plus has been serving the community for 40 years. The idea for Quitman Christmas Sharing was born in a Sunday school class at First United Methodist Church. Several class members concluded that their children had been fortunate and had so much when there were many local children who had little or nothing.
The idea was to teach their own children compassion for others and use money normally spent on toys and gifts to help others who had so little. The Sunday school project has grown from a church-wide project to an entire community project each year.
It serves families in the Quitman ISD.
Volunteers meet the third Tuesday in September and agree to assume responsibility for various parts of the operation. The operation consists of over 50 volunteers and cranks up well before Christmas. Tasks are divided by committees, one to shop for toys, a team which handles wrapping of the boxes and another to coordinate food donations and purchases. In recent years there has also been a push to provide more to Quitman’s elderly residents.
In 2018, 307 households serving 454 people were served, and 212 of those were children. The board for the program includes Dave Simpkins, chairman; Michelle Dobbs, president of Christmas Sharing; Beth Medlin, secretary; and treasurer Michelle Cameron. Other members are Sarah Medlin, Rita Johns, Nancy Cain, Kristi Bridges and Vickie Gardner.
“Christmas Sharing has become a type of clearinghouse for other donations, such as Angel Trees, toys from school project contributions, grocery sack contributions from Brookshire’s and canned good contributions from civic organizations and the school,” Secretary Beth Medlin said.
Included for each family are canned goods, staples such as flour, sugar, rice and a ham which are paid for from funds contributed or from canned good drives at the schools. All of this comes together at a distribution point where the goods are boxed and numbered according to an assigned number during the week prior to distribution. All recipients are informed by mail of when and where to pick up their gift packages.
At their designated time, they will present their number and stand by while volunteers gather and deliver the boxes to their vehicles. Most recipients receive several boxes.
In the beginning, donations were from one person at a time, and there have been years when the only way the program could continue was when one or two people stepped up and rescued the program with large contributions. As time passed, volunteers worked through local churches and civic organizations seeking support and contributions for money and talent.
The Flora Masonic Lodge initiated a fish fry dinner as a fund raiser which has been a mainstay of the program, raising an average of $8,000 per year. Within the Quitman area, Christmas Sharing has grown to be the most widely supported community charitable organization. Support, both financial and volunteer labor, is received from churches, schools, service organizations and businesses throughout the area.
“In 2001, our name became Quitman Christmas Sharing, Plus. We decided to make help available at times other than just Christmas. Working with the teachers and counselors at Quitman schools, we help provide school supplies to the elementary and on an as needed basis for the junior high and high schools,” Medlin noted. “Christmas sharing is working with local Lions Club in sharing costs associated with eye examinations and eyeglass purchases for those needing assistance. We have a ‘Coats for Kids’ program which fills the coat needs of any child and we provide coats at Christmas if one is specified.”
Medlin stressed that all gifts are used 100 percent by Christmas Sharing, Plus for endeavors in the Quitman ISD.
With the permission of the QISD superintendent, letters are sent home with all elementary school students at the beginning of the year and they reply if they are eligible to be included in the program. The need and where they live can be verified through the school district. Names also come from churches and individuals who know where there is a need.
This year distribution day is Dec. 7. The next meeting is Nov. 11 at 5:15 p.m. at the Christmas Sharing Building on Cliff Street. Anyone who wants to be part of the program is welcome at the meeting.