Local organizers promote giving spirit of Christmas

JACKSONVILLE (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Jacksonville residents can help fellow community members this holiday season by participating in several local initiatives.
The Salvation Army in Jacksonville Kettle Drive is still in need of bell ringers through the Sunday before Christmas. Volunteers can work shifts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Schedules can be worked around, and people are welcome to fill in for part of a shift, said Melody Walters, coordinator for The Salvation Army in Jacksonville.

She said the only kettle drive location in town is Wal-Mart, but more locations could be added in the future if there is enough commitment from volunteers.

"We can't get enough bell ringers to do several locations. I would love to expand it out but need community (help) from bell ringers to do that," Ms. Walters said.

A lot of bell ringers used to come from Lon Morris College, she said, so they lost people when the school closed.

She said The Salvation Army in Jacksonville has had 20 different people set up to ring bells, and when they're not there, she is. Some of the hardest shifts to fill are on Fridays and Sunday mornings.

The goal is to have at least a couple of people on each door at Wal-Mart per shift.

"It's hard if you try to do four hours by yourself, so if you bring a buddy, it helps," Ms. Walters said.

She said she wants to see more local civic groups and organizations get involved, and a woman recently called because her church group wants to come out and help one Saturday.

Ms. Walters also noted some Jacksonville College students have helped, and there are high school students who might need volunteer hours and could help.

For anyone, "I think it's good for the soul," Ms. Walters said.

People who can't ring bells can provide a child with Christmas gifts through the children's Christmas tree.

Ms. Walters, who serves as a chairwoman for the tree, said residents can go to participating banks in Jacksonville and choose a name from the tree. They then buy for that child and bring the gifts back to the bank.

A toy drive for the tree is scheduled from 1 to 6 p.m. Dec. 15 at Wal-Mart, where people can donate unwrapped toys.

Bruce Mehlenbacher, chairman of The Salvation Army in Jacksonville, said the organization uses funds to buy gifts for children who aren't chosen off the tree.

Money given to The Salvation Army also goes to pay for gas, bus tickets and meals, among other things, he said.

"It always is important for the people who need it the most," Mehlenbacher said.

For more information on the initiatives, contact Mehlenbacher at 903-586-2201.


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