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Children benefit from Natchez Children’s Christmas Tree charity

NATCHEZ — The COVID-19 pandemic and cold windy air did not stop more than 300 local children benefiting from the Children’s Christmas Tree fund from having a merry Christmas Eve at the old Braden school on Homochitto Street Thursday morning.

This year, the gift distribution was celebrated a little differently in observance of COVID-19 guidelines, organizers said.

Families started arriving as early as 8 a.m. at the school and drove around to the front of the building to receive bags of toys without leaving their cars.

Four-year-old Layla Johnson was one of the first in line.

Her excitement could be seen as she kneeled on her car seat and, with the window rolled down, waived at all of Santa’s helpers as the car made its way closer to Santa Claus.

Johnson smiled widely as soon as Santa was in view. She froze and looked up at Santa Claus with wide eyes as soon as he leaned down and spoke to her.

However, Johnson warmed up to Santa quickly.

“Can I give you a hug?” she asked him.

Santa Claus did not mind and moved closer so she could lean out of the car window and wrap her arm around him as far as she could reach.

Johnson’s was not the only smiling face as hundreds drove through the U-shaped drive of the Braden building.

The children received bags of presents, thanks to the Children’s Christmas Tree charity and donations from the community.

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