Wish trees will give kids merry Christmas

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The number of children needing help this Christmas has risensharply with the influx of Hurricane Katrina evacuees in the area,and the Brookhaven Junior Auxiliary is hoping more people willchoose to be “angels” to help compensate.

The organization’s Christmas “wish trees” have been establishedin four locations this year. Wish trees can be found at State Bank,the main branch of Trustmark National Bank and Wal-MartSupercenter. Junior Auxiliary members will raise the tree at Bankof Brookhaven Monday morning.

Tacked onto the wish trees are angel ornaments providinginformation on a child, who is not named. Prospective sponsorsselect an ornament and can purchase all or some of the items listedfor the child, box them and return them, unwrapped, to the tree tobe picked up by a JA member.

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The list includes two outfits of clothing, a pair of pajamas,socks, underwear, three toys and a toothbrush, said LaurieSullivan, co-chairman of this year’s program.

“You don’t have to purchase all of those items. We fill in wherewe need to,” she said. “They’re all going to get all of thoseitems.”

The children chosen to be placed on the tree were submitted byarea schools and their need verified by JA members throughdiscussions with parents, Sullivan said.

Typically, the number of children needing assistance is around300, but last year that number spiked to approximately 350. Theinflux of evacuees from the coast and other areas has helped createanother large increase this year, bringing the total to more than400, Sullivan said.

“We have a lot of evacuee children on the tree this year. Thenumbers are way up,” she said.

The organization is no longer accepting children for the list,Sullivan said.

All gifts must be returned to a wish tree location by Dec. 4,Sullivan said, to allow JA members time to organize and fill in anyincomplete boxes before the Dec. 10 distribution date.

The organization is also taking cash donations from businessesor from those who don’t have time to shop. To donate cash or formore information on the program, call (601) 757-1533.