DAILY LEADER / TAMMIE BREWER / Junior Auxiliary Wish Tree committee members Cheli Durr (from left), Whitney Holmes and Stephany Smith put up at sign at Betsy Smith Properties on Highway 51 South Tuesday to designate the business as an official drop-off location for Wish Tree.
DAILY LEADER / TAMMIE BREWER / Junior Auxiliary Wish Tree committee members Cheli Durr (from left), Whitney Holmes and Stephany Smith put up at sign at Betsy Smith Properties on Highway 51 South Tuesday to designate the business as an official drop-off location for Wish Tree.

Granting Wishes: Wish Tree project aids families in need

Published 10:08pm Saturday, November 9, 2013

With the holidays approaching, so is the season of giving, especially for one local organization.

Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven, with the help of the community, hopes to grant wishes to as many as 250 children this season through their ongoing project, “Wish Tree.”

In keeping with the mission of JA, “Care Today, Character Tomorrow,” the group hopes to assist families who may find it difficult to buy presents for their children this year.

“Wish Tree is to assist families who are struggling financially in any particular year so that those children can still experience the wonders of Christmas morning,” explained Stephany Smith, JA Wish Tree co-chair.

The Wish Tree campaign has been helping families and granting children’s wishes for more than 20 years.

“It is the members of this community that make it the success it is, and that offers us the opportunity to assist as many children as possible each year,” said Smith.

Smith invites the public to assist the organization again this year by choosing an ornament from one of the group’s trees, which are located at Trustmark main branch downtown, State Bank on Brookway Boulevard, King’s Daughters Medical Center and both locations of Piggly Wiggly. Trees are now in place, and gifts should be dropped off by Dec. 5.

Each ornament contains a number representing a specific child with gender, age, pants and shirt sizes, shoe size and what the child may be interested in, such as arts and crafts, books and puzzles, cars, dolls or sports. There are also explanation sheets at each Wish Tree location to assist with questions and/or purchases.

Once gifts have been purchased, JA asks that the un-wrapped items be dropped off at either Betsy Smith Properties, Highway 51 South, or downtown at J.Allan’s. Smith said to be sure to label the items or the bag with the number on the ornament.

On Christmas morning, each child will receive the minimum of two outfits, shoes, socks and underwear, toothbrush and toothpaste and three toys.

In some cases, the ornament that is chosen may have an X over an item; if so, that means that item has already been purchased for that child.

Smith expressed her gratitude to the community for such an outpouring of generosity in past years and for this year.

“I’d like to extend an early thank you from JA to all those who have already begun assisting the process,” said Smith.

Local dentists have already donated toothbrushes and toothpaste; the Krewe of Ceres made a monetary donation and Dungan Engineering is providing storage and work space for the auxiliary.

“Since my return to Brookhaven, the thing I have appreciated most is that our community is one of great faith, and our community leadership truly embraces our continued betterment,” said Smith.

 

Other ways the community can help is by making a tax-deductible donation or by dropping off any new toys, clothes, socks and underwear at the drop-off locations. JA’s mailing address is P.O. Box 169, Brookhaven, MS 39602.

“We would like to encourage any small groups, such as tennis teams, book clubs, bunko groups, sports teams Sunday School Classes … to think of adopting children or making donations as part of your annual Christmas gathering,” said Smith.

Children who are granted wishes from JA are referred to the organization by confidential school administrative committees, said Smith. The parent or guardian is then sent a letter asking if the family wants to participate in the program. If so, they are asked to take part in a referral day where members of the Wish Tree committee review documents and get information regarding the child. Only children ages 3 to 12 are accepted for the program.

Assisting Smith as co-chair is Christy Sheppard. Other Wish Tree committee members include Caitie Boatwright, TA Boyd, Cheli Durr, Tracy Freeny, Whitney Holmes, Heather Martin, Leah Smith and Teresa Stovall.