Helping put smiles on children’s faces at Christmas, Cheer Fund kicks off its 2022 campaign.

Published 7:16 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

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The Suffolk Cheer Fund will once again raise money this year to help children in Suffolk be able to find gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.

In just 49 days, children will wake up to see what kind of gifts are awaiting them under their Christmas trees.

With the help of donors to the Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund, there will be bright, wide smiles and twinkling eyes this holiday season.

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This year’s Cheer Fund goal is $40,000 with those involved hoping to exceed that number with this year’s need being so great.

In a Thursday interview, Cheer Fund board member and “Head Elf” Margie Wiley said the need this year is expected to remain strong, explaining that she doesn’t know what effect inflation will have.

But she is confident the Cheer Fund will do well in its 2022 campaign because many donors give each year because they have a heart for our community and for the memories of their childhood and having a gift under the tree.

“Our supporters consist of businesses, community leaders, families and individuals. Some make donations in memoriam,” Wiley said. “We hope that the community will continue to help us reach our goal while being able to support their personal needs.”

Last year, the fund assisted about 1,000 families and was able to provide toys to about 2,600 children, Wiley said. Additionally, the fund supported about 1,000 Angel Tree gifts in 2021.

The Salvation Army, which operates the Angel Tree in the Suffolk area, is seeing increased need this year.

“The price of everything has gone up,” Angie Simmons of the Salvation Army said Thursday. “Our phones are ringing off the hook about assistance. We have already registered close to as many kids as last year.”

Simmons said the Cheer Fund makes a difference every year because it provides volunteers the opportunity to help families provide Christmas for kids.

“Cheer Fund helps us make sure that we don’t have to turn people away,” she said.

Simmons went on to explain why the community support is needed each year.

“We are able to make sure all the kids who are registered have three nice toys and a Christmas stocking with the help of Cheer Fund, Toys for Tots, and those who adopt angels at Christmas time,” she said. “You find the Salvation Army bells every year to raise money for our year-round assistance to families. Because of the Cheer Fund we don’t have to buy toys! We can spend our resources helping families with food, utilities, youth enrichment, soup kitchen and spiritual care.

She said the Cheer Fund is a “blessing.”

Wiley agrees with Simmons noting that there are a lot of organizations that use the holiday season to raise funds, but many of those dollars have a broader reach at the state or national level.

“The Cheer Fund is a local effort that started in Suffolk almost 100 years ago when the need was great during the Great Depression,” Wiley said. “All the funds that are donated are utilized to serve local children here in Suffolk. Few organizations can say that they can show direct impact to our community that way. And we also address a specific need – a toy for every child.”

Simmons pointed to a wonderful experience she had during last year’s Cheer Fund drive.

A woman bought 127 bikes for local children through the program last year.

“We make it a policy that if one child in a family gets a bike, they all do,” Simmons explained. “A mom was in tears because she put that her kids needed a bike but never expected that all five would receive one. We get to do that!”

She said they understand that there are a lot of parents who would not have been able to buy five bikes at a time.

“There are so many beautiful moments at the toy shop,” Simmons said. “It is more than the toys but the love and hope we share.”

The Salvation Army has an assortment of Christmas programs designed to help families and seniors in need. To help give out toys, one of its biggest partners is the Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund.

The Cheer Fund was started by the newspaper during the Great Depression to provide clothes and food for needy families. It eventually began providing toys for children and teamed up with the Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army.

These days, this program of the newspaper is its own nonprofit, with an independent board, and each year collects roughly $40,000 from individuals, groups and foundations in the community. This money goes directly to the purchase of toys by the Salvation Army.

To donate to the Cheer Fund, send a check to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439 or bring it to the newspaper office, 157 N. Main St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. We will list your donation in the newspaper, but it can be marked “anonymous” if you like.

Donations may be made in honor of or in memory of someone. If you bring the check to our office, we’ll even take your picture as you hand it to one of our staff.