Kids line up for popcorn at last year's Holiday Night of Hope event at the Trotter Center. Columbus Community Outreach director Glenda Richardson came up with the idea for the party, which treated kids to fun, games and food along with Christmas presents. This year's event will be held Dec. 13 and donations of toys, cash and gift cards are needed. Photo by: Courtesy photo
November 29, 2019 9:28:34 AM
Every now and then, an idea proves so successful that it leaves people wondering why no one thought of it before.
For Glenda Richardson, "Holiday Night of Hope," which provides Christmas gifts to children of the working poor in the community, was such an idea.
The idea came to Richardson, the director of the City of Columbus Community Outreach program, last year as she began to hear the stories of many of the citizens she works with, people who said it would be difficult to find the money to buy Christmas presents for their children. Other charities were hearing similar stories.
The idea of throwing a party to provide those children with donated presents came with little time to spare.
"It would be fair to say we put it together on the fly," Richardson said. "We didn't really have much time."
Even, so as word began to circulate, donations and offers to volunteer began pouring in.
"We had hoped to give each child two gifts and a gift card, if we could," Richardson said. "We were able to do that for a little over 100 children. It was absolutely wonderful, the way our community responded."
Now, with some left-over donations and a full year to prepare, this year's "Holiday Night of Hope" has even more ambitious plans.
"We have 120 children on our list," Richardson said. "And because we were still getting donations even after last year's party, we got a little head start for this year."
This year's party -- which like last year will feature kid-friendly fun and foods -- will be held Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. upstairs at The Trotter Convention Center.
To help identify children in need, Richardson turned to former United Way director Josie Fannon, who screened and interviewed parents of children targeted for the event.
"These are families I've talked to, often, people I've worked with. I know their stories," Fannon said. "So many of them are working at minimum wage jobs or just a little more. They may have had their work hours cut. They're struggling just to make it. Then Christmas comes and the financial stress that goes with it. When you have to make the choice between spending money on putting gas in the car so you can get to your job or buying Christmas presents, well, you have to by the gas. It's not really a choice.
"So to be able to do this, to step in and say, 'don't worry about the Christmas presents,' I just feel like it's the perfect response," she said.
Richardson said the generosity of the community does not surprise her.
"It's not just the donations, either," she said. "Building Bridges for Hope is partnering with us and local churches are sending us volunteers. It's really a community effort."
As last year, the plans are to provide each child with two presents -- at least one of them from the child's wish list -- and a gift card.
Anyone wanting to donate toys, cash or gift cards should submit donations by Dec. 9. Donations can be dropped off at the Community Outreach Office at 1607 Main St. or mailed to C/O Building Bridges of Hope, P.O. Box 492, Columbus, Mississippi 3903. For more information, call Richardson at 662-364-1850.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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