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JA aims to empty its wish trees

For nearly 30 years, members of the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven have brightened Christmas for thousands of children through its Wish Tree program.

The trees are back up and filled with ornaments that need to be “adopted,” said JA spokeswoman Kristina Mason. Trees are located at Broma’s Deli, C Spire, King’s Daughters Medical Center lobby and the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce. Shoppers will fill out a tear-off section of the ornament with their own contact information and drop into the Wish Tree box so JA can keep track of which children have been adopted.

This year, 170 children will benefit from the JA service project.

Children — age 3 to 12 — are recommended based on need, as determined by a confidential referral system assisted by the public schools and community agencies. Once the children are referred, JA holds two vetting days in October at which the parents present identification, birth certificates, proof of income and other documents to ensure the children selected for placement on the Wish Trees are among the community’s most needful. The 2019 referral process has ended and no additional referrals are being accepted, Mason said.

The trees are decorated with pink and blue ornaments, which give the necessary information about the child, including age, clothing, shoe sizes and a few interests. Shoppers are asked to purchase three toys, two outfits, shoes, socks and underwear.

The toys should be chosen as good ($10-$20), better $(20-40) and best ($40-$60) for each child, she said.

Local dentists have provided toothbrushes and toothpaste to add to each child’s gift box.

Shoppers should not wrap gifts, but instead should place each child’s gifts in one black garbage bag with the Wish Tree ornament attached. Drop offs can be made at Betsy Smith Properties, C Spire and the Chamber of Commerce. Deadline is Dec. 2.

“The Wish Tree program is such an amazing program designed to provide Christmas morning to children in our community who have been referred by school counselors, teachers or social workers,” Mason said. “For almost 30 years, this program has made sure Christmas stockings were full and children experienced the joy of Christmas morning.”

For those who choose not to adopt a child, JA welcomes donations of toys, bikes and money. Anyone who wishes to make a monetary donation to the Wish Tree program may mail checks to the Junior Auxiliary of Brookhaven at P.O. Box 169, Brookhaven, MS, 39602. For more information, call the Wish Tree Hotline at 601-754-9380, email jabrookhaven@gmail.com, visit the group’s Facebook page or contact them on Instagram at JAofBrookhaven.

Ornaments on the trees that aren’t “adopted” during the program are divided among JA members, who fill the children’s requests.