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Season of Wishes: Giving a holiday tradition in Natchez

File photo /The Natchez Democrat — Every Christmas, Eve Santa Claus visits Natchez and hands out toys and other gifts to area boys and girls in need.
File photo / The Natchez Democrat — Every Christmas, Eve Santa Claus visits Natchez and hands out toys and other gifts to area boys and girls in need.

NATCHEZ — For approximately 120 years, area children have enjoyed a brighter Christmas thanks to the Natchez Children’s Christmas Tree Fund.

This year should be no different.

Organizer Caroline McDonough said the fund serviced 300 children in 2012, and a similar number is expected this holiday season.

The names of needy children and their families are provided to the fund by Catholic Charities, and boys and girls of four age groups — 1-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-10 — receive gifts on Christmas Eve. Each child gets different gifts.

“It varies with their age,” McDonough said. “We get a bag and fill it up with age-appropriate gifts. It’s usually about five gifts in the bag.

“My great-great grandfather started it in the early 1900s. It’s been in my family for that many years. Someone from my family has (always) put it on.”

The effort is one of many ongoing, philanthropic endeavors that local volunteers and generous residents do to impact the Miss-Lou in a positive way.

Beginning Monday, The Natchez Democrat will highlight the needs and services of one local non-profit agency per day leading up to Christmas. Donations of money, supplies and time are welcomed at every agency, and many rely on help from the community during this season of wishes to sustain their work year round. McDonough said a history of helping and a little local advertising make the Christmas Tree Fund giveaway special each year.

“It’s pretty awesome to see all those smiling faces,” she said. “It makes all the work worth it.

“(We’re funded by) individual donations. We put a Top of the Morning in the newspaper, and people send in money. That is the only way that we are funded.”

Donations may be sent to Christmas Tree Fund, P.O. Box 1082, Natchez, MS 39121 or to The Natchez Democrat, P.O. Box 1447, Natchez, MS 39121.

McDonough said her family members get together in the days before the giveaway for a special packing event, preparing all the gift bags for the deserving children. “It’s a like a family night where we do the bagging of the candy,” she said. “We all get together and do that.”

McDonough said the community is welcome to experience the scene by joining the festivities Christmas Eve at the Braden School Auditorium.