Small Talk: Christmas Clearing House — Gifts of Hope
by Annette Maddox
Special to The Star
Nov 25, 2012 | 1841 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More than 50 years ago, a group of dedicated churchwomen gathered together to provide food baskets for those in need during the Christmas season. Their small initiative has grown to become the Christmas Clearing House, which serves the Calhoun County community.

The purpose of this organization is to channel community giving during the Christmas season to recipients who have been screened for eligibility. This cooperative effort with the Salvation Army, Interfaith Ministries and other charitable organizations in the community helps to eliminate duplication and allows assistance to more families.

The responsibilities for Christmas Clearing House this year are being shared by a huge network of volunteers from different faith organizations. Members from First Presbyterian Church, Grace Episcopal Church, Haven United Methodist Church, St. Mark United Methodist Church, Temple Beth El, Parker Memorial Baptist Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Fairview Heights Northside Baptist Church have teamed up with this year’s host church — Anniston First United Methodist Church — to accomplish this most worthy effort.

Christmas Clearing House chair Cathy Pitts and Interfaith Ministries Program chair April LaFollette are working closely together to plan and coordinate the raising of money to fund this year’s program.

Publicity chair Lynn Isom is hard at work with her committee, which includes Dot Thomas, Karen Van Cleave, Mandi King and David Whetstone. Hundreds of fliers and envelopes will be distributed to area churches, while outdoor signs, banners and different kinds of media will help us all to remember to consider making a much- needed donation.

In early October, Katie Collins, chairman of scheduling and interviewing, began working with the Salvation Army to interview applicants in need of assistance. Many volunteers were needed for this weeklong process. She was assisted in finding those volunteers with the help of Kathy Weiser, Donna Barton, Lou Wilson and Joyce Walker.

Once the screening and eligibility process is complete and the fundraising is underway, the Gift Card Committee begins their work. Chair Everette Studdard, along with her committee — Johnnie Faye Ray, Ann Morgan, Ann Jackson, Estelle Robertson and Joyce Walker — will organize dozens of volunteers to distribute Walmart gift cards to the hundreds of families who were approved for assistance. These gift cards can be used to purchase toys, clothing or food.

Office Committee chair Robin Cooper will be working with her committee — Emily Robison, Bonnie Cory and Evelyn Lipham — to take care of all written correspondence, such as thank you notes and acknowledgements of memorials and honorariums.

According to those involved, working with Christmas Clearing House is a very humbling experience. There are so many hurting individuals, and the need is so great. The heart-wrenching stories that the volunteers heard during the interviewing and screening processes touched them deeply, reminding them all why we come together as a community to serve and minister to the needs of others.

When applicants are interviewed, they are asked if they have a special wish — a specific toy for a child, or a needed item of clothing, such as a coat or a pair of shoes. One young single mother responded by asking for warm clothing for her new baby. She said that she had lost her job and that it took all of her courage just to come to the Salvation Army to ask for help.

Another young woman cried as she spoke of her 4-year-old daughter, who is struggling with diabetes. She said that she really didn’t know what to ask for, but she thought that new crayons and coloring books, or just anything, would make her daughter happy.

One of the volunteers was deeply touched by the story of a woman with three children, who opened her heart to take in her sister’s children after they were abandoned. Through her tears, she expressed her concerns about the water bills, electric bills and food bills that had doubled, and she was worried about her sister. The volunteer asked her Sunday School Class for help. The class readily agreed, and began coordinating efforts to provide a special Christmas for this family.

After all these years, our community is still committed to serving the needs of others. We are blessed and our gifts are truly gifts of hope during this holy season.

Please consider making a donation that can be mailed to Christmas Clearing House, Interfaith Ministries, P.O. Box 1444, Anniston, AL, 36202. All contributions are tax deductible. Memorials and honorariums are accepted and will be gratefully acknowledged.

To share your news with Small Talk, contact Annette Maddox at

Save the Date

Anniston Museum League’s 12th annual Homes for the Holidays Tour of Homes is slated for Dec. 4. From 11 a.m.-7 p.m., enjoy a self-driving tour of several beautiful homes in the area, all decked out for the holidays. Also, new this year, ticketholders are invited to drop by the museum for two “teach-nique” demonstrations on gift-wrapping and holiday baking. Advance tickets are $15 for Museum League members and $20 for the general public; all tickets are $25 the day of the event. Call 256-237-6766.
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Small Talk: Christmas Clearing House — Gifts of Hope by Annette Maddox
Special to The Star

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