MAKING CHRISTMAS BRIGHT

s the sun rose Christmas Eve, people scurried in and out of the Shops at Seymour carrying bicycles and boxes of wrapped toys and clothing.

Once the items were placed in their vehicle, they headed out all around the county and delivered them to homes.

These people didn’t mind getting up early to help out. They knew they were making Christmas a little brighter for less-fortunate children in Jackson County.

This year, the Sertoma Club of Jackson County’s annual Christmas Miracle served 319 families and 767 children.

Jim and Peggy Johnson recruited their grandchildren, Karmen Johnson, 18, Calvin Johnson, 15, and Cole Johnson, 13, to help them deliver gifts Thursday morning.

After picking up some boxes and bicycles from the Christmas Miracle Headquarters, they loaded them into the back of a truck and headed out to the far west end of Seymour. They stopped at two other houses before returning to the headquarters to pick up more gifts to deliver.

Peggy Johnson said she helped deliver presents with her son in the past, and she was happy to do it with her husband and three grandchildren.

“I’m feeling very fortunate to have my grandchildren here today doing it,” she said. “We’re a very fortunate family, and we have everything we really need. I think it’s neat for them to see that other people do not have the same good things and are less fortunate.”

Jim Johnson is a member of the Seymour Rotary Club and said the Sertoma Club reached out to other service organizations to help this year. He was happy to do so and said it was a good opportunity.

“When you get to be 74 years old, you’ve seen that there’s other people (who are less fortunate),” he said. “It’s just rewarding to do something about it. The biggest reward is it just kind of shows what the community of Seymour is, not just the city of Seymour, but the community.”

Peggy Johnson said it’s good to see people helping others.

“I think we’re fortunate to live in a community that is willing to reach out. There are lots of places that don’t,” she said. “I can’t hardly stand the thoughts of a child not having Christmas presents. I feel fortunate that we’re able to give people things that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Karmen Johnson graduated from Seymour High School in the spring and now is a student at IUPUI. She said she has helped with similar projects in the past, but this was her first time delivering gifts for Sertoma.

“It’s nice to see the looks on their faces and for them to be so thankful,” she said. “It’s definitely eye-opening.”

She said it makes her realize how fortunate she is.

“It makes me feel a little bit guilty but also more appreciative and definitely makes me want to do it again,” she said. “There are so many kids that without it, what would their Christmas be like? It’s nice that we give them something to open at least. I think it’s a really nice thing.”

Karmen Johnson said supporting different causes at college and now helping Sertoma inspires her to do more.

“They had to wrap all of those presents. I would love to be able to help them wrap next year,” she said. “I’m living in Indianapolis, so I’m sure that there are other things I could do there, too.”

Calvin, a freshman at Seymour High School, said he had a good time delivering gifts.

“Some people just don’t have it as well, and they really do struggle,” he said. “(Christmas Miracle) really does help everyone out that doesn’t have anything. I feel good just helping other people out.”

Cole, a seventh-grader at Seymour Middle School, said it made him feel good, too.

“I think it’s a good thing that everybody gets to open presents,” he said.

At their third stop Thursday, Christina Spaulding answered the door and was greeted with boxes of toys and a couple of bicycles for her five children ages 5 to 11.

This was her second year receiving gifts from Christmas Miracle.

“My aunt actually told me about it one year because we were struggling, and she said to fill out this paper, and she brought it to us, and we filled it out,” she said.

Spaulding said she and her husband both have jobs, but it’s still hard to make ends meet.

“I’m a server, and he’s a cook, and we work doubles pretty much all of the time and still have to find some way,” she said. “We’re just struggling with the economy. It’s just really hard. We didn’t think we were going to be able to do Christmas this year.”

But with a friend helping out and Christmas Miracle providing gifts, Spaulding and her husband were going to be able to watch their children open gifts on Christmas.

“It means the world,” she said, with tears filling her eyes. “It’s awesome. It’s wonderful. This is the most wonderful feeling ever to know that they are going to wake up and have one of the best Christmases ever. That’s the best part of Christmas is to see them happy.”

Spaulding said it’s good to have projects such as Christmas Miracle. For others who are struggling, she said they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.

“God put everybody here to help each other,” she said. “We’re not here to do it by ourselves, and we need to realize that if we need help, there are people that are still kind enough to help us. There are still good people in the world.”

John Fox and Ryan Begley co-chaired this year’s Christmas Miracle. Sertoma has sponsored the project for more than 40 years.

Fox has been a part of Christmas Miracle since he joined Sertoma more than 15 years ago.

“It’s a Christmas tradition for us,” he said. “If we didn’t do this, it wouldn’t be Christmas.”

This was his second year in a row helping lead the project, and that requires a little extra work, he said. Around the first of October, he and Begley began looking for a headquarters location. Once that was secured, they had to get it ready to open by the first of December.

Five local businesses offered to set up angel trees from which people in the community could pick an angel that listed the child’s first name, sex, age and toy choice.

After someone bought the items, they took them to the headquarters, where they were stored until the wrapping parties began. A handful of local industries also chipped in this year with donations of bicycles and toys.

Fox said Sertoma had one wrapping party, and then there were seven other days when volunteers spent about three hours at a time wrapping gifts. Each wrapping party averaged about 20 people.

“We’ve been supported very extensively by several youth groups, church groups and community groups that come in and wrap and do a wonderful job,” Fox said. “Without them, we would have a difficult time. This was easy.”

If a child asks for toys or clothes, they get a primary gift and a secondary gift. For those who ask for a bicycle, that is their only gift.

“Then a lot of people will drop off things like boxes of puzzles,” Fox said. “Those are extras, and a lot of times, we’ll throw those in.”

Each box that was carried out Thursday morning also included a blanket. Those were collected by groups in the county.

The number of children receiving gifts this year increased by 41 from last year. Fox said 2009 and 2010 were two big years, with more than 400 boxes of gifts being delivered.

Seeing it all come together again this year was a great feeling, Fox said.

“The whole community has supported this, and we’re happy as a club to sponsor it,” he said. “We want to encourage more and more community participation as time goes by. Between the wrappers and the people that buy gifts and the companies that support us and the people that give us cash donations, that all seems to be building over time.”

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.