Christmas Tree Fund looks to continue giving

Published 12:04 am Thursday, December 4, 2014

NATCHEZ — Members of one organization that’s been helping less fortunate local children for more than 100 years is counting on the support of area residents to keep the spirit going this year.

Originally called the Poor Children’s Christmas Fund, the Christmas Tree Fund was founded in 1900 by the former publisher of The Natchez Democrat, James W. Lambert.

More than a hundred years later, Lambert’s great-great-granddaughter Caroline Ferguson McDonough continues the family legacy.

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McDonough started the work as a child, bagging candy and toys, but is now in charge of buying the toys for the distribution.

“It’s so nice to see children that otherwise wouldn’t have had a Christmas get to experience that,” McDonough said. “It’s fun to watch, and I love seeing them get their bag.

“It’s enough to melt your heart.”

McDonough said she tries to spend between $25 and $35 on each child’s present bag.

Nearly 30 to 45 bags are prepared for each age group for a total of 350 bags of toys that are all age and gender appropriate.

The gifts are purchased in early November on the Christmas Tree Fund’s credit card, and donations are used to pay off the balance, with little money rolling over at the end of each year.

“Monetary donations are really the only thing we need, because we need that for the gifts,” McDonough said. “We got out and buy for each age group all at one time.”

McDonough said she and her children spend the majority of December preparing the packages of gifts that will be distributed to local needy children.

The names of the children ages 1 to 10 who will receive the gifts are gathered by Catholic Charities.

On Christmas Eve, a Santa Claus selected by the Santa Clause Committee distributes the bags at Braden School auditorium.

“It’s very rewarding to be a part of,” McDonough said.

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.

Donations may also be dropped off at The Democrat’s office at 503 N. Canal St.