Though it may be summertime, funds are currently being raised for the Community Holiday Fund to give locals in need a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas this holiday season.
After The Salvation Army closed its doors in Greenville last year, many residents were left wondering if they would be eating a Thanksgiving meal or if they would be able to give their child a present for Christmas. Thanks to several organizations in Washington County that came together with a plan to “bridge the gap,” those residents did not go without.
Greenville Rotary past president Evelyn Edwards said it was October when the closing of The Salvation Army was brought to the Rotary Club’s attention. And thus, the club’s executive committee decided to step up to the plate to fill the void.
After meeting with Mayor Errick Simmons and City Attorney Andy Alexander, Edwards said they initially tried to make an injunction to keep The Salvation Army from closing until after the holidays. When that plan fell through, Edwards said the only thing left to do was form a community collaborative meeting at City Hall on how to continue the services The Salvation Army offered for nearly eight decades.
“I didn’t know how much was involved behind the scenes,” Edwards said, noting they had an extensive workload ahead of them.
Needing a safe and secure middle-ground place where people could make tax-deductible donations, Edwards said they reached out to the Community Foundation of Washington County (CFWC) and that’s when the Community Holiday Fund was created.
“With that, things just kind of sped off,” Edwards said, noting she met with leading officials from Pafford EMS, Greenville Police Department, Greenville Fire Department, Entergy, the City of Greenville, youth court judges and Parker England from Planters Bank to coordinate a plan for Thanksgiving.
Thanks to their collaborative efforts, Edwards said more than 50 volunteers came together to package and serve a Thanksgiving meal to about 125 people at First United Methodist Church.
After success with Thanksgiving, Christmas was just around the corner and Edwards said the first thing they wanted to do was find a way to collect toys to distribute to children for Christmas.
As a result, the Community Giving Tree was created and trees were erected at several stores throughout Greenville. Paul Mathis and Operation Warm stepped up to the plate to donate 92 new coats to the Community Giving Tree project.
By the time they were ready, Brian Oakes with Oakes Chevrolet offered a building in between Oakes Chevrolet and Bubbles and Bows for them to distribute the some 250 toys and bicycles as well as several needed items for the holiday season, including non-perishable food items, clothing and toiletries.
“The community really came together to do this. We could not have done this without everyone’s efforts,” Edwards said.
In hopes to increase the number of residents they are able to serve this holiday season, Edwards said that’s why they got an early start with their “Christmas in July” fundraising efforts.
Terri Lane, executive director of the Community Foundation of Washington County, said they were immediately on board from day one.
“We want to be ahead of the game this year,” Lane said. “We want to have the dollars in hand proactively so we know what we’ve got and then we can really focus on the service side and not have to worry about not having enough money to buy turkeys and that sort of thing.”
Looking back on the efforts put forth by the several people, groups and organizations last year, Lane said it was an amazing experience to see all walks of life come together for one purpose.
“You talk about a grassroots effort, and this was exactly that,” Lane said, noting their donations came from all walks of life in the community. “It was everything from corporate to people like me and you who gave money, to churches, other civic clubs, just everybody doing what they could to figure out how to make sure those kids had a Christmas gift under their tree on Christmas morning. It was the only thing any of us cared about.”
Online donations can be made at the Foundation’s secure website, cfwashco.org, or by mailing a contribution to the Community Foundation of Washington County, P.O. Box 5910, Greenville, MS 38704. All donations to the Community Foundation of Washington County need to have “Community Holiday Fund” in the memo line.