Giving back to the community has become Christmas tradition for many Smith Mountain Lake residents. That generosity has helped Lake Christian Ministries’ A Child’s Christmas program continue to serve families in need during the holiday season for more than 20 years.
The program provides toys and clothing to families who may be struggling this time of year. “There have been times that, without them, my children would have nothing for Christmas,” said Theresa Walker of Penhook.
Walker’s son and grandson are two of the more than 300 children included in this year’s program. Walker signed up for A Child’s Christmas while at Lake Christian Ministries. She recently participated in the nonprofit’s Getting Ahead program that helps people find and retain employment.
“It is amazing the resources Lake Christian Ministries has available,” Walker said.
Walker said she is grateful for the generosity of the people who donate to A Child’s Christmas and the volunteers who help to put everything together. She recalled last year when her son received the skateboard she had requested for him.
“It just melted my heart, because I knew he was going to get what he wanted for Christmas,” Walker said.
When families sign up for A Child’s Christmas at Lake Christian Ministries, each child’s information is placed on a card along with clothing sizes and specific toys they would like. The cards are put on angel trees that are placed in local businesses and churches in the area each year around mid-November. Toy boxes also are placed in area businesses for new, unopened toy donations.
Each year, donors take a card, collect the items listed and drop them off back at the angel trees. This year’s drop-off deadline was Dec. 3, and volunteers spent the week picking up the toys and collecting donated gifts.
Longtime program coordinator Lynda Imirie is already planning a sorting schedule for the gifts. More than 60 people participate in organizing the gifts so they are ready to give to families just before Christmas, she said.
Next week volunteers will shop to fulfill items not purchased on the angel trees. Imirie said she encourages people to visit an angel tree and donate to a child even if they are unable to purchase everything on the list. “Simply buy what you can, and we will take care of the rest,” Imirie said.
Volunteers often spend between $8,000 and $10,000 each year supplementing what was donated, often buying more clothes. “Seldom do we go buy more toys,” Imirie said.
Donations collected during the year help pay for those purchases, Imirie said. Several groups donate to the program each year, including the Moneta Garden Club and Moneta Ruritan Club, as well as proceeds from the annual Charity Club hosted by the SML Model Railroad Group.
Purchased items are sorted along with donated items for each child in the program. A few days before Christmas, volunteers hold a collection day for families to pick up the gifts so they can be placed under the tree.
With help from the lake community, A Child’s Christmas assures that hundreds of area children in need are given the opportunity for a happy holiday season, Imirie said.