Byrne turns over the reins of Project Noel
HOUSTON – Grass roots community efforts are hard to sustain, but Project Noel has been a mainstay in Houston during the Christmas season for almost 30 years.
Children are “adopted” by clubs, churches, businesses and individuals who help provide clothing and gifts for Christmas and food boxes are dispensed to the elderly and those who need extra assistance.
For over 20 years, Carol Byrne has put her time, effort and heart into organizing Project Noel, but this year she orchestrated her last event. Byrne is retiring from the forefront of Project Noel and turning the reins over to Leigh Ann Howell and Ashley Peel. All three women worked together this year to make the transition smooth.
“Next year we pass the baton,” Howell laughed. “I could not have done it without her (Byrne).”
Byrne may be the most recognized face of Project Noel but she shares credit for the program’s success with many people who all play an integral part.
“I started doing it for the Jaycees 25 years ago with 15 families for a year or two,” Byrne said. “Then I got recruited by Project Noel. It wasn’t always as organized but after we teamed up with Grocer’s Pride, Kirkham (Dendy) and his gang and then with the Salvation Army and Trisha (Finn) it became more organized. Barbara Klauser and Joyce East and CDF Charities have always kept the money straight for us.”
Finn and the Salvation Army partnered with Project Noel in 2003 to help with screening applicants and get adoption information out to more sources. 2013 was the fourth consecutive year every child was adopted by an individual, church, club or business and Finn said it was a fitting tribute to Byrne’s dedication to the effort.
“What a great way for Carol to retire with this accomplishment to our credit,” Finn said. “It has been a great 11 years for me to work with Carol. She has been such a giving person to our community and it has truly been an honor to work with her. I have a great respect for the people who started Project Noel so many years ago and a great respect for the young ladies that will be taking their places. I can only see good things for our community.”
Byrne was presented a plaque of appreciation for her years of service by her daughter, Regan Byrne, who has also volunteered with Project Noel for many years. Howell said the younger Byrne is not off the hook for the 2014 campaign.
“I told her, ‘Your mama may retire, but you can’t,'” Howell said. “She knows everything about it and how it works.”
Carol Byrne said Regan came by her knowledge honestly.
“My five children have all helped with Project Noel in some way,” Byrne said. “I believe that you must teach one to be one and pay it forward in all you do. It was just the right thing to do as a Christian and a neighbor. I learned from a Sunday school teacher that you may be the only Bible for someone to see.”
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About Lisa Voyles
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