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JA kicks off 2014 Wish Tree

PHOTO SUBMITTED / JULIANA ADAMS /  Emma Coleman and Stephany Smith organizing toys.

PHOTO SUBMITTED / JULIANA ADAMS / Emma Coleman and Stephany Smith organizing toys.

For more than 25 years, the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven has worked to assist parents and caregivers with presents for their children for Christmas.

JA is once again asking for the community’s help in making the joy of Christmas morning possible for approximately 250 children here in Brookhaven and throughout Lincoln County.

The Wish Tree committee begins preparing for Wish Tree adoption and toy distribution in June. Members of the Wish Tree committee are assigned various duties over the summer months, such as shopping for toys and shoes, preparing ornaments and contacting schools for referrals.

School referrals begin to take place as soon as the school year begins in August. Wish Tree guidelines allow for children ages three to 12 to be referred.

“Children are referred to us by confidential school administrative committees,” said Stephany Smith, Wish Tree chair.

Parents are then sent a letter asking if they would like to participate in the program. If so, they are asked to take part in a screening day, where members of the Wish Tree committee review documents and obtain information about the child.

“On Christmas morning the child will receive a minimum of two outfits, underwear, socks, three toys, a toothbrush and toothpaste,” said Smith.

While the Junior Auxiliary does have a budget for this project, it would not be possible without the great support from individuals who adopt Wish Tree children and businesses that donate needed items.

“We would like to encourage bible study groups, book clubs, sports teams and bunko groups to think of adopting children or making a donation as part of your Christmas gatherings,” said Smith.

Our local dentist offices have already donated toothbrushes and toothpastes, including Brookway Dental, Brookhaven Dental Center, Belk-Ditcharo Dental and Dr. Clay Johnston. JA thanks The Krewe of Ceres and Trustmark National Bank for their donations. Dungan Engineering has provided work space and storage room for this project.

Wish Tree ornaments are now available at Goody’s, J. Allan’s, KDMC (near the gift shop) and both Piggly Wiggly locations.

There will be directions for shopping for the child with the angels. While completing the shopping list is encouraged this is not required, and all donations will be accepted.

The deadline to turn in donations is Dec. 4. Drop off locations include Betsy Smith Properties on Highway 51 and J. Allan’s downtown.

If someone doesn’t have time to shop for an angel and would still like to help, tax-deductible monetary donations are accepted, and no amount is too small. Donations may be mailed to: Junior Auxiliary P.O. Box 169 Brookhaven, MS 39602.

One more way the community may help is by dropping off any new toys, clothes, socks, underwear or shoes at either of the drop off locations.

Once all donations are received, the Wish Tree committee reviews each ornament to make sure all lists are complete. On distribution day, parents pick up their child’s presents to have for them before Christmas morning.

JA appreciates the community’s continued support in making a difference in the lives of children during this magical Christmas season.

“We cannot express enough gratitude to Brookhaven for continuing to step up year after year in support of Wish Tree, and I am proud to have the privilege of being a part of Junior Auxiliary, an organization that works tirelessly for the betterment of our community and specifically for children who need our assistance, support and encouragement.” said Smith.

For more information on Wish Tree, please call Stephany Smith at 601-754-4311.

Assisting Smith as Wish Tree Co-Chair is Wendi Case. Other committee members include Emma Coleman, Whitney Holmes, Amber James, Brenda Orr, Kara Pannell, Mendez Vaughn and Natalie Ybarra.