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Rotary Club of Oxford-Ole Miss hosts annual Christmas Store

OXFORD — Christmas Day will be a little brighter for many area kids thanks to the Rotary Club of Oxford-Ole Miss . The organization held their annual Christmas Store on Saturday and supplied toys for families to put under their Christmas tree next week.

The store, which has been an Oxford tradition for over 40 years, was held at the armory building connected to the Oxford Conference Center where families who signed up could pick up their gifts.

The Rotary Club has been running it for the past 11 years.

“It really is the start of my holiday season,” Christmas Store co-chairman and rotary club member Jonathan Mattox said, “Seeing the appreciation on someone’s face who may be on hard times and doesn’t have anything they can give to their child, just really is a special opportunity to be a part of.”

In organizing the event, local families signed up for toys they hoped to receive. Then, the rotary club took in donations. The toys that fit the family’s request were bundled together and sorted alphabetically by last name. On Saturday, families picked up their designated items from a central location within the armory. Recipients were also given the option to take home other miscellaneous donations, such as books, located on surrounding tables.

Everything is taken care of for the families, including the wrapping. Volunteers waited at the wrapping paper station to take the toys and individually wrap them for the families, making the gifts Christmas tree-ready.

Neena Ledbetter moved to Oxford within the last year and was one of the several volunteers ready to help. This was Ledbetter’s first Christmas Store experience, but nowhere close to her first time volunteering her time to help put a smile on other’s faces around the holidays.

“It’s just a wonderful, joyous time and the kids are wonderful,” Ledbetter said. “It’s a good feeling to know we’re really working with the families and helping out.”

Families were also provided the option to sign their children up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a program in which a child receives one free book a month for five years. This initiative helps to build home libraries with books recipient children may not have been afforded on their own.

Around 138 families were supplied toys from the story, a number that was down from last Christmas.