Donated gifts, bikes ensure a merry Christmas for children in Piedmont
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Dec 15, 2012 | 3132 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Volunteers Teresa Warram, left, and Heather Young distribute bags of toys at the Piedmont Benevolence Center’s gift giveaway Friday morning at Northside Baptist Church. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
Volunteers Teresa Warram, left, and Heather Young distribute bags of toys at the Piedmont Benevolence Center’s gift giveaway Friday morning at Northside Baptist Church. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
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PIEDMONT — Charles Smith knows the value of donated Christmas gifts.

Friday at Northside Baptist Church he was on the receiving end of two large black garbage bags filled with donated toys for his children.

As volunteers for the Piedmont Benevolence Center loaded the bags into his red Jeep Cherokee, he talked about the effect gift donations would have on area families.

“It means a lot,” Smith said. “If it wasn’t for them helping out a lot of people wouldn’t get Christmas.”

The Piedmont Benevolence Center gave out 223 bags of gifts and dozens of bikes as part of a program, now in its third year, called the Star Christmas, said Heather Lamey, executive director of the Benevolence Center.

One by one, volunteers handed the bags off to parents who drove by throughout the morning to collect gifts for their children.

“There is nothing more joyful than seeing their faces on Christmas morning,” said one parent, Lisa Cribbs, as she was picking up gifts for her children. “I have something to look forward to.”

In the fall, the Benevolence Center begins screening local applicants to determine which families will receive help buying Christmas gifts. The families who qualify are then asked to list their children’s names, with one wish and one want for each child, Lamey said.

Families must meet the federal government’s guidelines in order to qualify for the Piedmont program.

The information provided by the children’s parents is then listed on a small, yellow star made of construction paper. Those stars are distributed to the 24 churches and civic organizations that partner with the center to provide food, funding and other resources for families in Piedmont throughout the year.

Those stars are then adopted by members of the community who buy gifts for the children and return them to the center. The program, still relatively new to the community, is already well known.

The organization had more donors than they did stars.

“We had to tell people, ‘We’re sorry we don’t have any more stars,’” Lamey said.

Lamey got the word out through flyers and newspapers.

Though the Benevolence Center’s program is not part of the Salvation Army’s Christmas gift program, they are very similar. The Benevolence Center followed the model of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program for its Piedmont program. Unlike the Salvation Army’s program, however, the Benevolence Center’s Star Christmas is specific to families living in the 36272 ZIP code.

Nineteen volunteers were on hand Friday at Northside Baptist Church to distribute gifts to area families. One volunteer, Heather Young, said it’s “touching” to help all the families who reach out to the center for Christmas help.

But helping some families, she learned, is particularly rewarding. One woman came through the line and thanked the volunteers for the gifts with tears in her eyes, Young said.

“It almost made me want to cry, actually,” Lamey said.

Staff Writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
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