As the holiday hits full stride, many people begin to feel the goodwill of the season. Charities across the community are in the middle of their annual holiday campaigns and drives.
One of these groups is made up of the faithful women of the Junior Auxiliary of Ruston. They are currently in the middle of their 26th annual Christmas Clearinghouse program.
Kristi Lumpkin, chair of the program, said the program was conceived to serve children across Lincoln Parish.
“It’s a program where we ask teachers within the elementary school system to nominate children they feel may need just a little extra help during the holiday season,” Lumpkin said. “We then find individual sponsors throughout the community to provide for the families. We have a very, very generous community.”
Lumpkin said the needs of children differ from household to household.
“Their needs range from uniforms to socks and shoes to school supplies,” she said. “We also help households with multiple children whose ages can range from birth to 18. Obviously, a baby has different needs than a high-schooler.”
Lumpkin also said that the Junior Auxiliary partners with the United States Marine Corps to bring the children toys as well.
“Around this time the Marines begin their Toys for Tots program,” she said. “We share the same lists of families between our groups, and together, we can bring the children both their necessities and their fun toys.”
The sponsors usually decide how the goods are distributed.
“Some sponsors like to remain anonymous,” Lumpkin said.
“Others will go shopping with the families and personally make sure the items reach the recipients. It’s their call, really.”
Lumpkin says the families that the program serves have declined this year.
“We have over 415 kids on the list this year, as opposed to the last two years where we’ve had over 600,” she said. “I would hope the decline in need for our help is a good sign. If so, it means that their families had a better year and things are looking up for them.”
For more information on the program, email c...@jaofruston.org.
Lumpkin said from her position, the sponsors should receive more recognition.
“Because of the anonymity of our position, the J.A. sisters don’t really receive the amounts of gratitude as the sponsors, simply because we are the ones who do the matching of sponsor and family,” she said.
“Occasionally, we will sponsor directly, but even in those situations, it’s not about the glory. It’s about seeing the genuine appreciation from the parents and guardians, as well as the huge smiles on the faces of the children.”
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