The holiday season started early at the sixth annual Santa’s Gift House hosted by the Junior Auxiliary of Taney County (JATC). Fresh baked goodies, photos with Santa and Frosty, and craft stations were all available to enhance the children’s shopping experience. Santa’s Gift House provided approximately 160 of the community’s children with an opportunity to experience the joy of giving gifts during the holidays. They “shopped” and selected up to four items for 50 cents per item that they then gave as holiday gifts to their loved ones. These high quality gifts included wallets, purses, fleece scarves, knitted stocking caps, picture frames, birdhouses, pen and ink drawings, shaving mugs, cocoa mugs, golf ball puppies, fisherman survival kits, pocket crayon and coloring books and lots more.
It was a joy to see the smiles on the faces of the children as they personally selected gifts for their loved ones and learned that giving can be better than receiving. The items were handcrafted by members of JATC and their friends and family so that these children had meaningful gifts to give to others. The events that JATC holds to raise money as well as community donations help fund the supplies for these gifts. The event was also supported by the Branson United Methodist Church Family Life Center, where it was held, and The Chateau on the Lake and Tanger Outlet Mall provided supplies for the event and the attendees.
It was truly a Christmas Wonderland. Frosty and Santa were located in a Lollipop Forest and were surrounded by giant ornaments created by JATC members. Three beautifully decorated Christmas trees surrounded by gifts and Christmas music helped to set the mood for the children and parents alike.
The children were overjoyed by the holiday setting, gifts, craft stations and baked goodies, and many expressed their appreciation over and over to the JATC members who were helping them with gift selection, wrapping, crafts and photos. The parents were just as excited as they were offered free treats and donated items they might need for Christmas. Some of the parents were thrilled to have the free photo of their child with Santa – for some it was the first time their child had not cried in a photo with Santa.
Santa’s Gift House is one of many service projects that JATC members provide to the community. Others include College Readiness programs and scholarships; prom dresses for girls in need; stuffed animals for children in the local hospitals; Journey, a mentoring project for young women; Book Swap/Homework Helpers for children in extended stay motels; and home improvement and financial support for the Women’s Crisis Center. More information about the organization and its projects is available at JATCMO.org.
Members raise money for these projects through one major event - a fun Trivia Challenge with dinner, live entertainment and a Silent Auction. This year the 16th Annual Trivia Challenge and Silent Auction will be held at the Radisson Hotel in Branson on April 2, 2016. Also, JATC raises money from other events such as Belks Charity Days, Schwan’s Cares and the Branson Women’s Expo as well as donations from businesses including Doug Baker State Farm Insurance, Branson Airport, Ozark mountain Ear Nose & Throat and Combs Hotel Properties.
JATC is more than a nonprofit organization, it’s a group of women united by a single cause and dedicated to helping the children of Taney County. That’s the magic of JATC. It was chartered by a group of caring, enthusiastic women in 1998 and continues to grow and thrive throughout Taney County. Approximately 50 members annually contribute more than 4,000 volunteer hours as they strive to improve the mental, physical, social and emotional well-being of children in Taney County.
JATC is part of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA), a non-profit organization founded in 1941 with headquarters in Greenville, Mississippi. NAJA has more than 15,500 active, associate and life members in 98 chapters located in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Their slogan is “Care Today-Character Tomorrow”.
Published in: Branson Daily Independent, January 10, 2016