Small Talk: Christmas Clearing House prepares to help needy residents
by Annette Maddox
Special to The Star
Nov 13, 2011 | 3006 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the past 52 years, Christmas Clearing House has ministered to needy families in the Calhoun County community. What began as a grassroots effort by women from area churches to provide food baskets at Christmastime has become a well-oiled machine coordinated by a network of volunteers from different faith organizations.

Members from Anniston’s First Presbyterian Church; Anniston’s First United Methodist Church; Weaver’s First United Methodist Church; Grace Episcopal Church; Haven United Methodist Church; Grace Baptist Church; St. Luke Episcopal; Parker Memorial Baptist Church and Trinity Lutheran Church have teamed up with this year’s host church – Sacred Heart Catholic Church – to accomplish this most worthy effort.

Sacred Heart co-chairs Mandi King and Bonnie Cory are working closely with Interfaith Ministries program coordinator April Lafollette to handle publicity and raise money to fund this year’s program.

One hundred percent of all donations from individuals, area businesses and faith organizations is given away. Nothing is held over. But this year has been especially challenging, as Interfaith Ministries continues to see families who have been affected by the April tornadoes as well as by the state of the economy.

The Christmas Clearing House process begins with the Screening Team, which works with the Salvation Army to interview applicants in need of assistance. Donna Barton is this year’s team chair, and she needed 100 volunteer screeners. She was assisted in finding those volunteers with the help of Marcelle Battle, Janet Fowler, Judith Keat, Marjorie Tanner, Esta Spector, Jane Lipham, Tiffany Hopkins and Janice Beverly.

Once the screening and eligibility process is complete and the fundraising is underway, the Gift Certificate Team comes into play. Team Chair Ann Morgan, along with committee chairs from area churches — Sandy Joiner, Estelle Robertson, Pat Babb, Anne Jackson, Joyce Walker and Dot Thomas — organize dozens of volunteers to distribute Walmart gift cards to the hundreds of families who are approved for assistance. These gift cards can be used to purchase toys, clothing or food.

Lastly, the Office Team meets to take care of written correspondence, such as thank you notes and acknowledgements of memorials and honorariums. For these clerical tasks, team chair Bonita Moreau is joined by Bev Roberts, Robin Cooper and Eleanor Henderson.

While it is easy for everyone to get bogged down with the planning and the details of implementing a successful program, it is the individual stories that are the heart of Christmas Clearing House. They serve to remind the volunteers why they have come together.

When applicants are interviewed, for example, they are asked if they have a special “wish” — a specific toy for a child, or a needed item of clothing, such as a coat or a pair of shoes.

One young woman responded by saying all she needed was prayers, because she was grieving the loss of her infant, who had died two weeks earlier.

In another case, a woman requesting assistance explained how her husband’s illness had taken a toll on their finances, and they were now without a refrigerator.

The volunteer assigned to the woman not only made sure the couple received a refrigerator, but personally bought groceries and shared a meal with them.

Another story concerned a disabled man with a simple wish. Living on a budget, he had given up quality coffee for a cheaper brand. Fresh fruit and some “good” coffee — ordinary things many of us take for granted — were his only Christmas wishes.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Volunteers with Christmas Clearing House can certainly attest to this sentiment.

Donations can be mailed to Christmas Clearing House at 431 Gurnee Ave., Anniston, AL 36201. Memorials and honorariums are gratefully accepted, and will be properly acknowledged.

To share your news with Small Talk, contact Annette Maddox at

Save the Date

Break out your bicycle or lace up your running shoes for the Ogan Run or Ride Benefit, Nov. 19 at 9 a.m. at Golden Springs Community Center. This 5K run, 20-mile bicycle ride or half-mile kid’s run will feature awards for first and second place in each age category. All proceeds will go to the Ogan family for medical expenses. (Rosie Ogan is battling multiple myeloma, and Steve Ogan is battling CNS lymphoma.) For race information or to find out how you can donate to help the Ogan family, call Ashley Cox at 256-310-1246, Cornerstone Church at 256-236-1603 or visit
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