The holiday season started early at the eighth annual Santa’s Gift House hosted by the Junior Auxiliary of Taney County (JATC). Fresh baked goodies, photos with Frosty, and craft stations were all available to enhance the children’s shopping experience. Photos with Santa were not available as Santa had to stay home and take care of Vixen and Dasher who had the flu. On December 9, Santa’s Gift House provided approximately 175 of the community’s children with an opportunity to experience the joy of giving gifts during the holidays. They “shopped” with the help of JATC elves 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, stress balls, multi-colored pictures, cocoa mugs, fisherman survival kits, peanut mugs, jewelry, knitted scarves and hats, decorative plaques, and lots more. This year on December 14, we extended Santa’s Gift House to include Bradleyville students where we served another 74 students.
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 who welcomed us to hold the event at their Family Life Center, The Chateau on the Lake who provided draping and rods, and Tanger Outlet Mall who provided shopping bags to carry gifts.
It was truly a Christmas Wonderland. There were several beautiful Christmas trees, and 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 where they created their own ornaments, and baked goodies. As they exited the building, kids received a book and candy cane. 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.
JATC members enjoyed these events as much as the kids and the parents. What a joyous way to start our own holiday season!
Santa’s Gift House is one of many service projects that JATC members provide to the community. Other JATC projects include Tender Critters for children in trauma; Prom Dresses for girls in need; Heart of the Arts supporting arts activities for clients of the Developmental Center; financial and labor support for the Women’s Crisis Center including birthday parties and child watch for the children; School Supplies “refreshment” in January for elementary schools; Homework Helpers for children who live in extended-stay motels; and Hip Hop into Fitness which promotes “fun exercise” through various activity stations.
Members raise money for these projects through several fundraisers and one major event - a fun Trivia Challenge with dinner, live entertainment, a raffle and a Silent Auction held in the spring each year. This year the 18th Annual Trivia Challenge and Silent Auction will be held at the Radisson Hotel in Branson on April 14, 2018. Last year nearly $20,000 was raised, all of which was reinvested in our community. This year the theme is Sherlock Holmes; after all, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson.”
Also, JATC raises money from other events such as Belk’s Charity Days, Schwan’s Cares, AmazonSmile, Mr. G’s Annual JATC Days, the Branson Women’s Expo, grants and individual donations. Generous local businesses also donate to JATC’s various events including Doug Baker State Farm Insurance, Ozark Mountain Ear Nose & Throat, Mr. G’s Pizza, Binswanger Glass, Chateau on the Lake, Big Cedar, State Park Marina, 417 Fundraising, Usborne Books, Central Bank, Dale Sanders American Family Insurance, Great Southern Bank, Lowe’s, Sign Man, and Branson Bank.
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 by: Branson Daily Independent, Sunday, January 14, 2018; Branson Tri-Lakes News, Saturday, January 20, 2018