‘Season of Wishes’ spotlights volunteerism

Published 12:14 am Friday, November 30, 2007

The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas have always held great expectations in my family.

Before the Thanksgiving Day dishes were cleared from the table, my mother would be plotting the fastest way to get the Christmas tree up.

Holiday music played from the moment dad pulled the boxes filled with decorations from the attic to the day after Christmas when everything was packed away.

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My sister, brother and I especially looked forward to the day my mother pulled out the Advent calendar.

It wasn’t anything elaborate. No larger than a book, the calendar was filled with 25 windows that we opened each day between Dec. 1 and Christmas. Behind each window was a tiny illustration that went with the theme for that year’s calendar.

Though it had a tendency to cause some sibling strife over who was going to open the window each morning, the calendar was our family’s way of preparing for Christmas.

It has been 20 years since we have shared that tradition, yet I think about it every year.

As I have grown older, my idea of preparation has changed. My thoughts of the season have moved from Santa Claus and gifts to other understandings of season.

For the past four years, The Natchez Democrat has offered something akin to the Advent calendar of my youth.

We call it our “Season of Wishes” — a series of stories each holiday season to remind its readers of the many charities and organizations that depend on donations of time and money each year.

In those stories, we give readers information about how they can help these Miss-Lou organizations provide the basic needs of shelter, clothing and food to those in need.

Each day between Thanksgiving and Dec. 14, The Natchez Democrat will focus on one of these agencies, from the Stewpot to Pleasant Acre Day School.

Like the Advent calendar of my childhood, The Democrat offers readers a window into the lives of those helping others throughout our community.

Each story is a daily devotion, a reflection on the volunteers and residents who truly give of themselves to help others.

In the past four days we have told of the good works being done by organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Stewpot, The Guardian Shelter and the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society.

Too often, the charities and organizations of the Miss-Lou remain faceless in the eyes of our readers. They are just names on a page.

With the busyness of the season, it is easy to pass by them on the page, like Scrooge passing by little orphans on the street.

Natchezdemocrat.com hopes to put a face on these organizations. On our new Web site, we are giving readers a more in-depth look at the people who are helping make these organizations possible.

With more pictures and audio interviews, natchezdemocrat.com is providing another facet of these inspirational stories.

Take the Natchez Stewpot for example. With pictures and sound, our Web site not only reports on the basic wish list of this longstanding Natchez charity, but also gives you interviews with two volunteers working at the Stewpot. The pictures and audio put a face on these organizations.

The audio slideshow of the Natchez-Adams County Human Society makes the pet shelter on Liberty Road and the people who work there real and tangible.

These are just two of the slideshows that will be offered in our season of wishes.

In the coming days, readers will be able to hear the voices of the many volunteers helping to make not just the holiday season, but the whole year bright for those in need. Pictures will show what makes the spirit of these organizations great.

Our hope is that this daily seasonal reminder will not only make real the spirit of volunteerism in the Miss-Lou but will also be an inspiration for readers to join in the preparation for the season.

Ben Hillyer is the Web editor at the Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.