HOUSTON – For almost 30 years, volunteers have spread Christmas cheer in Houston and the surrounding areas and the drive has begun again.
Project Noel began as a grass-roots effort to help the less fortunate during the holidays and has continued to serve the community with Christmas cheer.
Carol Byrne has worked with Project Noel for over 20 years and has seen the rewards of providing gifts of clothing and toys to children and food boxes to families.
“Always, we invite churches, clubs, businesses and families to adopt a child or two to share the meaning of Christmas with others,” Byrne said.
The adoption process is screeened through the Salvation Army Service Center in Houston which keeps records of adoptions and facilitates the process.
“One may call the Salvation Army to get a child to adopt and all the information on what to purchase and how to do it are written on the tag,” Byrne said. “The Salvation Army and Trisha Finn make it simple and organized.”
Finn said she recieved about 126 applications for Project Noel gifts and has already had many adopted out.
“We put an Angel Tree at Parkway Baptist Church, First Methodist Church and Thorn Church of God called and asked us to bring one there,” Finn said. “Vardaman High School adopted nine kids from Calhoun County already.”
And residents of the Town of New Houlka picked up adoption forms for members of their community.
“We have about 50 angels left here at the Salvation Army,” Finn said.
Project Noel guidelines recommend purchasing an outfit, shoes and jacket along with an age-appropriate toy, spending about $75 per child.
Handing over the reins
Byrne, after serving as Chairperson for Project Noel for many years, is now grooming her replacements, serving as their trainer for this year.
“Our new chairmen are Leigh Ann Howell and Ashley Brooks,” Bryne said. “They are wonderful ladies and we need new faces with new ideas.”
Howell said she knew Byrne was ready to step down and she was concerned about losing the volunteer effort in the community.
“It was on my mind and it burdened me, who was going to take it,” Howell said. “I asked God to please find someone to take it, someone to keep the doors open.”
She received a response, but possibly not the one she thought she would get.
“He pointed the finger right at me,” Howell smiled. “I fought it forever.”
Howell did assume the chairman position, but recruited help from Brooks.
“I said, ‘If I do this, will you help me?’” Howell said. “She’s very organized and does the letters and the secretarial things. I can’t sit down at a computer.”
The duo will be working with Byrne this year to get a feel for the organizational process, but Howell knows the groundwork has been laid.
“I’m really excited,” Howell said. “And I know Carol’s not going to just leave me.”
She also knows the long-standing volunteers will be behind her again this year.
“The baseball team and Anchor Club will all still volunteer. I want it to be just as good as Carol has done. She’s done it so well for so long.”
Opportunities for service
In addition to providing gifts for children, Project Noel also assists the less fortunate with food boxes for the holidays. Project Noel enlists the help of local school clubs to pack the boxes and Grocer’s Pride Supermarket employees help with unloading and boxing pallets of food bought with donations from the community.
Barbara Klauser coordinates the food box donations and can be contatcted at 456-4313 or donations can be mailed to Chickasaw Development Foundation at P.O. Box 505, Houston, MS 38851.