The holiday season started early at the seventh 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 145 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 wine glass globes, wind chimes, picture frames, bug lights, instant snow ball fight bags, cocoa mugs, fisherman survival kits, peanut mugs, jewelry, pencil keepers, 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. This 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. Santa was surrounded by two beautifully decorated Christmas trees and he presented each child a book to go home with. Frosty was also there, located in a Lollipop Forest with giant ornaments. 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 a book handed out by Santa. 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 donated items they might need for Christmas, and 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 scholarships; prom dresses for girls in need; stuffed animals for children in the local hospitals; 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 17th Annual Trivia Challenge and Silent Auction will be held at the Radisson Hotel in Branson on March 25, 2017. Also, JATC raises money from other events such as Belk’s Charity Days, Schwan’s Cares and the Branson Women’s Expo as well as donations from corporate charitable giving (e.g., Amazon Smile, Usborne Books), generous local businesses (e.g., Doug Baker State Farm Insurance, Ozark Mountain Ear Nose & Throat, Mr. G’s Pizza, 417 Fundraising), grants and individual donations.
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: Branson Daily Independent, December 30, 2016