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JA wish trees help local children

Aaron Paden / Jesse Freeman checks out an ornament at Fox’s Pizza Thursday. Ornaments have individual children’s needs and wishes on the back, with a short form for potential sponsors. Instruction sheets for participants sit next to the tree.

Aaron Paden / Jesse Freeman checks out an ornament at Fox’s Pizza Thursday. Ornaments have individual children’s needs and wishes on the back, with a short form for potential sponsors. Instruction sheets for participants sit next to the tree.

Christmas is right around the corner, but some underprivileged families won’t be able to afford the kind of Christmas every child hopes for.

Junior Auxiliary is working to tackle this problem though its annual Christmas project where members place Christmas trees in businesses around Brookhaven. These Wish Trees have ornaments with a child’s needs and interests written on the back. Potential sponsors can read the ornament, and bring presents to a drop-off location.

“I think we have about 285 children, and there’s instruction sheets at each location to tell people what to do,” Mendez Vaughn, Wish Tree co-chair, said. “Each ornament gives them the size of the shoes, shirts, pants and what interests the child has or needs. If they like sports, the ornament will say that, but if they need a winter coat, the ornament will say that.”

Ornaments will not identify the children by name, but Vaughn said they’re all from Lincoln County and chosen by local schools.

Vaughn said they do have a budget for the event from their recent shrimp dinner fundraiser, so sponsors don’t necessarily have to buy everything on the ornament. However, every little bit helps. Each child will get a toothbrush and toothpaste provided by Dr. Joey Sessums. They will also get three toys, in categories Vaughn called “good, better and best.” Vaughn said she hopes to get at least 100 bicycles this year.

“Riding a bicycle was one of my favorite memories growing up,” Vaughn said. “I’m a therapist, and as a therapist I think every child should have a bike. I think it’s a great opportunity that we can help Christmas wishes come true, but also that we can provide them with a bicycle or a jacket or something that they could actually need or could use every day.”

Vaughn said the wish trees will be up throughout November. Locations for the wish trees are J. Allan’s, Detour 51, King’s Daughters Medical Clinic, C Spire, Fox’s Pizza and both Piggly Wiggly locations. Drop-off locations for gifts are Betsy Smith Properties, J Allan’s and Brookhaven Milling Company.

Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven is a local service organization whose motto is, “Care today, character tomorrow.” It has a number of projects to help children and families in the community, and its only fundraiser is the annual Peel ‘Em and Eat ‘Em Shrimp Dinner. Junior Auxiliary will also be taking monetary donations for the wish tree project. Anyone with questions or donations can call the Wish Tree Hotline at 601-754-4311.