As we wrap up the third year of our “Delivering Christmas” series, Evening Sun staffers reflect on their experiences throughout the month.
Many of you may remember a few years back when our December “Christmas Countdown” series consisted of then-reporter Mike McGuire donning a Santa suit and doing silly things throughout the county in front of Frank Speziale’s lens. When Mike left, we had no one to fill that tired Santa suit (literally and figuratively, I might add). So when faced with both the prospect of replacing that front page fixture and coming up with a theme for our Christmas Parade of Light float, I threw out the “Delivering Christmas” tagline. But the words are all I’m going to take credit for – this project, now three years old, is purely the work and enthusiasm of my intrepid reporting staff. They’re the ones who don the aprons and hats and go out into the community to spread peace on earth and good will toward men – and some good will toward this newspaper and the causes they write about.
I don’t just sit back and watch, though. This year, in addition to helping the Greene Rotary Club deliver their Christmas baskets and helping our paper carriers coordinate our annual book drive for Toys for Tots, I also took on the task of “helping” Santa Claus respond to each and every child who wrote in to us with a “Letter to Santa.” We published them in a special section last Friday, but what the general public may not know is that every child gets a handwritten, personalized response from Santa (or an e-mailed one, if they’re tech-savvy). Sure, it’s an arduous task, but with each one I help Santa write, I figure if it makes that child believe for just one more year ... well, I really can’t say it better myself, so read our annual reprinting of “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” on today’s page 4. And oh yes, have yourselves a merry little Christmas now.
After three years of “Delivering Christmas,” I can honestly say donning those signature green aprons and cheerful Santa’s hats hasn’t gotten old for me. Well, OK, so maybe I could do without the apron, but this program has helped give the Holidays a whole new meaning for me. It has reminded me that the true spirit of this season is about giving.
Our “Delivering” series has become one of the highlights of my job at The Evening Sun. Not only does it give me the opportunity to pitch in to help some of the amazing organizations and efforts in and around Chenango County, but it also helps bring attention to the work these groups are already doing. And let me tell you, they definitely deserve the recognition.
This year, I spent time helping with the local Toys for Tots campaign; Hospice and Palliative Care of Chenango County’s annual Poinsettia sale; the Holiday Clothing Drive conducted by the Norwich City School District and the Place; and last, but certaingly not least, the Greene Rotary’s annual Christmas basket program.
Those hours I spent working elbow to elbow with other volunteers were more rewarding than I could possibly express. Thanks to all of those involved with these great organizations for opening their hearts to those in our community who need it most. They give so freely of their time and themselves for such worthy causes. It is an example we all should follow at this time and all throughout the year.
As always, the experience also opened my eyes still further to the level of need in our community. And made me more fully appreciate the things I know I and so many others take for granted on a daily basis.
These are all important lessons to be learned, and if spreading the good word means wearing a silly hat and apron, so be it.
Wishing you and yours a warm and wonderful Holiday season and a very Happy New Year.
For the last three holiday seasons, we’ve slipped into our green aprons and Santa hats, like Yuletide superheroes looking for a good cause. Of course, our one-day efforts are hardly heroic when compared to the real volunteers who support these goodwill programs all year long. I hope we’ve brought at least a glimpse into the incalculable worth found in these selfless community volunteers and the lives they’ve touched.
This month I visited the Norwich Senior Center to deliver Meals on Wheels and I joined the Relay for Life teams at Chase Memorial Nursing home for a fundraiser aimed at buying residents’ gifts and donating money to cancer research. I also volunteered at the St. Paul’s Parish Hall in Oxford for the Taste n’ See Soup Kitchen and accompanied my colleague Melissa Stagnaro at the Toys for Tots distribution center in Norwich.
No matter where we go or who we meet at these events, they tend to share the same kind of atmosphere, usually soft spoken and smiling volunteers and gracious attendants. At each corner of conversation you can hear a muffled laugh, a story about someone’s Christmas or just a plain, “thank you” or “hello.”
What I found remarkable during these good spirited occasions is how easily I fell into them. With great ease I found myself engaged with a number of people in simple, pleasant conversations. I must also surprisingly admit to getting and offering a number of different hugs, not something I’m accustomed to encountering in the fire, crime and court beat.
It was an incredible feeling being able to participate in these programs and even as I recall my positive experiences, I can again sense my emotions welling up. I’m used to preparing my heart against the colder side of world where my duties usually take me, but yet again I’m completely caught off guard by the kind acts of strangers. My deepest appreciation to them all.
Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit more than a chance to perform some classic Christmas music, and such was the case while I was out and about “Delivering Christmas” this year for our hometown daily newspaper.
While I certainly had a great time cruising around Greene with Jeff and the “Melissas” (Stagnaro and deCordova) as we pitched-in to help out with the Greene Rotary’s annual Christmas Basket delivery, and helping out at the Oxford Vet’s Home for its yearly holiday “shopping spree,” I have to admit my first two stops for our “Delivering” series were, by far, my favorites.
There’s just something uniquely special when it comes to singing and strumming along to classics such as “Silent Night,” “White Christmas,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and the other assorted tunes I dust off every year for the holiday season – especially when I have the opportunity to do so for audiences like the residents at the Chenango Valley Home and Mrs. Hickling’s enthusiastic third-graders at the Perry Browne Elementary School.
I’ll even admit I had my own, personal reasons for both visits. The first, at the Chenango Valley Home, gives me a chance to see my grandmother and spend a little quality time with her. The second – an opportunity to chat with Mrs. Hickling, who was my Kindergarten teacher and is one of the kindest souls one could ever hope to meet.
In addition, I love a chance to write stories such as these – they’re more personal and it’s a great opportunity to spread some Christmas cheer, something we can all use this time of year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get out-and-about and involved with our local community, and one I looked forward to all year. On that note, I’d just like to say Merry Christmas to all of our readers and thanks for all that you do to make the holidays here in Chenango County a truly special time for everyone.