Cheer Fund begins today

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 16, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Santa’s helpers are already hard at work across the city to make sure no child is forgotten on Christmas morning.

Using money raised during the Suffolk News-Herald’s annual Cheer Fund campaign, these unsung heroes will be providing Christmas will be providing Christmas for more than 1,680 underprivileged local children this year.


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The News-Herald, which is kicking off its annual fund drive today, is aspiring to raise $40,000 this holiday season.

The number of children whose holiday gifts will be funded through the Cheer Fund is on the rise, said Leonard Horton, director of the Suffolk Department of Social Services.

For the first time, his agency and the Salvation Army have combined their data bases to select the children who will receive gifts through the Toys for Tots program. The program in Suffolk is largely funded by the Cheer Fund.

&uot;We’re making an effort to reach as many as possible this year,&uot; said Horton. &uot;It is a great, great gift from the community.

&uot;We’re trying to target families in need, and coordinating with the Salvation Army and Captain David May. The Cheer Fund, historically, has been a great asset to this community, and we’re excited at seeing more families assisted this year.&uot;

This year, the Cheer Fund will provide toys, bears, and gifts for 1,686 children from birth to age 12. Specifically, 231 boys and 212 girls assisted by the Salvation Army and 553 boys and 690 girls sponsored by social Services will receive gifts through the Cheer Fund.

Toys have already been purchased and delivered to a storage facility to be distributed to parents on Dec. 16. Social services and the Salvation Army will contact by mail the parents of children selected to receive the gifts.

There is no way these children could know of the many people who spent volunteer countless hours organizing and coordinating this huge project.

One volunteer, Maxann Kerr Morrison, thought she had retired after 26 serving as the volunteer hostess for the Share-a-Toy parties. Not surprisingly, her retirement didn’t take.

Apparently, Morrison, director of Suffolk Day School, is the &uot;hostess with the mostest&uot; when it comes to staging successful Share-a-Toy parties for Suffolk daycare centers.

William E. Ashley Jr., coordinator for the News-Herald’s Cheer Fund, signed her up again this year.

&uot;When Bill called me, I reminded him that I had retired,&uot; Morrison said. &uot;But then he reminded me of all the children out there who are expecting a visit from Santa.

&uot;I could never enjoy retirement knowing that I hadn’t done my part for the less fortunate children of Suffolk, so I will again be hosting the Share-a-Toy parties.&uot;

The toys give children an opportunity to share their good, used and new toys with other children.

&uot;It is such a wonderful experience to witness how the children give their toys,&uot; Morrison said. &uot;Today’s children, I’m afraid, are labeled as being selfish but this is not true. If you witnessed how willingly they give of their toys at the Share-a-Toy parties you’d see immediately…it’s just not true.&uot;

Morrison said several day care centers across the city will hold parties, while others collect toys for the effort. The parties are attended by Santa and after he meets with them he shares a peppermint cane and punch and cookies with the children.

At the Suffolk Day Care Center, the Share-a-Toy party kicks off the season of giving the first week of December. Later in the holidays, the children enjoy a second party in which they are the recipients of gifts from the center staff.

Choking back tears, Morrison described an incident that took place 25 years ago when she was just beginning the program. She told of one little boy, now in college, who gave away his favorite rocket ship and all its accessories.

&uot;His daddy asked why he was giving away his favorite toy,&uot; said Morrison. &uot;The child said it was his favorite and that he thought the little boy who got it would love it too.&uot;

Three other volunteers, Marion Sherrod, Joyce Elliott, and Linda Bullock, all Suffolk social workers, are among he best of Santa’s workers with Suffolk’s Department of Social Services, are also three of the best of &uot;Santa’s Helpers.&uot;

Sherrod has been helping with the toy drive for 26-years, and plans to continue even into retirement.

&uot;It is such a blessing to see the faces of the parents after they pick up their toys and gifts for their children,&uot; said Sherrod. &uot;That means so much to me that all the time we spend on this project is such a blessed time of giving to others in a way that helps everyone.

&uot;God has given me the gift of being a helper and a giver and I can use those gifts in the performance of my job.&uot;

Elliott, with social services for 28 years, has helped with Christmas campaign for a quarter of a century.

&uot;Oh, my goodness!&uot; she exclaimed. &uot;I didn’t realize it has been that long. I have enjoyed it so much and it’s an opportunity to help others with children that may not see gifts from Santa without the help of the community. It’s a blessing to help others and just to see the smiles on the faces of the children… we won’t see those smiles of course, but we know they will be there. &uot;

Ciba employees won’t see the faces of the children either, but they earned their halos last Friday when their representatives, Regina Copeland and Clayton Andrews, presented $1,000 to Cheer Fund Chairman Frank Rawls.

Ciba employees not only donated the check, but also committed to accept a challenge issued by last year’s group of employees who coordinated the Christmas fund effort at the plant.

The company plans to call Rawls back to the plant to present the toy campaign with at least 50 bicycles, helmets and other toys.

To make a contribution to the Cheer Fund, mail checks to the Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund, PO Box 1220, Suffolk, 23434, or bring contributions to 130 South Saratoga Street.

For more information on how to make a contribution to match, call Barbara Lee Allen at 924-9617.