Christmas charities spread joy throughout area

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 24, 2001

NATCHEZ – For Shameaka McMorris, the effect the Children’s Christmas Tree Fund toy distribution has had on her holiday can be summed up in one word.

&uot;Joy,&uot; said McMorris, looking down at her 1-year-old daughter, Nodea, who was holding her mother’s hand tightly. &uot;Joy that my kids will have something this year.&uot;

Nodea McMorris’ bag full of toys included a baby doll that cries.

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She was among more than 300 children that were given bags full of toys – and some clothes and other treats such as oranges – as part of this year’s distribution.

Among those who were helping match gifts with children was Katherine Killelea, chairperson of the fund.

&uot;The event went really smoothly this year,&uot; Killelea said. &uot;But it’s not just me – it takes everybody to do it.&uot;

The fund, which was started in the early 1900s, is a group of volunteers who raise donations from the community to give toys and clothes to needy children each year. The children’s names are forwarded to the fund by Catholic Charities.

Gifts are sorted into bags based on the age and sex of the child and distributed on Christmas Eve each year in the auditorium of Braden School.

As in past years, children served by the fund – accompanied by their parents – made their way up to the Braden stage late Monday morning, past a Christmas tree that was several feet tall.

Recipients included Brock, Blake and Caleb Sanders of Vidalia, La. – ages 6, 4 and 2, respectively.

The older children received car racing sets and toy soldiers, among other things; their younger brother, stuffed animals and a Christmas-themed shirt.

&uot;It’s really nice,&uot; their father, Troy Sanders of Vidalia, said of the distribution. After receiving bags of gifts handed to them by volunteers, they made their way down a line of well-wishers.

They included Natchez Miss Hospitality Melanie Foster and, of course, Santa Claus, played by Gerry Winters this year.

Each year’s Santa Claus is chosen by the Santa Claus Committee, a Natchez group that donates thousands of dollars to the fund each year.

&uot;It’s the spirit of giving – that’s why I’m in it,&uot; said Tommy &uot;Blackie&uot; Williams, referring to the Santa Claus Committee, which he is serving as a member for the first year. &uot;It’s a great thing they do each year. It’s important to share with others.&uot;

Bags of gifts left over from the Braden distribution were transported to the Natchez Children’s Home. Poinsettias that decorated the edge of the stage would be given to Holy Family Catholic Church and local nursing homes, Killelea said.