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Junior Auxiliary brings Christmas joy through Wish Tree drive

DAILY LEADER / NATHANIEL WEATHERSBY / Javeon Smith, 6, smiles after receiving a surprise spiderman-themed gift while accompanying his mother to JA's Wish Tree distribution.

DAILY LEADER / NATHANIEL WEATHERSBY / Javeon Smith, 6, smiles after receiving a surprise spiderman-themed gift while accompanying his mother to JA’s Wish Tree distribution.

If one were to stroll into the State Bank’s State Room Thursday between 3 and 6 p.m. they would have been greeted with smiling faces and “Merry Christmases” all around. These greetings would be coming from members of the Brookhaven Junior Auxiliary as they handed out bags of gifts and bikes to families from the area.

Stephany Smith, chair of the Wish Tree program, said this year’s program gave toys to 246 children and 117 families.

“We’ve been preparing since June, but the community started giving donations around November,” Smith said. “That’s where a majority of it comes from; the school administration and giving hearts of the community.”

DAILY LEADER / NATHANIEL WEATHERSBY / Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven member, Amber James, guides a bike, during JA's distribution of Wish Tree items, to a parent who will take it to its new home and new owner.

DAILY LEADER / NATHANIEL WEATHERSBY / Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven member, Amber James, guides a bike, during JA’s distribution of Wish Tree items, to a parent who will take it to its new home and new owner.

Smith said they get their referrals from confidential sources within the schools and double check among community members to make sure they help as many families and children as possible.

Over the course of two hours a room full of bikes and black bags full of Christmas cheer, in toy-form, became more and more empty, and the JA volunteers were greeted with more and more smiles.

Smith said without donations from the community the project would not exist, “At least definitely not to this magnitude. We had about 75 bikes, and our budget doesn’t cover 75 bikes.”

The Wish Tree program has been in circulation for more than 25 years, Smith said. She said she has such pride in being a Brookhavenite because of the generosity that the community and city displays during times like this.

The Junior Auxiliary would also like to thank State Bank for allowing them to use the State Room.