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Christmas Mother to meet intensified need

Joy Stump has been named the Prince Edward Christmas Mother (PECM) for 2020, a year in which the gift-giving services offered by the Christmas Mother organization will be particularly important given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on area families.

“I’m humbled and excited and thrilled to represent such a wonderful organization because this brings Christmas to so many children that may otherwise not have it,” Stump said. “And this year more than ever, we hope that we get a great turnout of sponsors, because with all the COVID problems, people need it more than ever.”

Stump has volunteered with PECM every year it has been in existence.

PECM President Lauren Showalter noted the organization is a product of three other moms and herself coming together several years ago with the desire of doing something for the community.

“It’s grown from there,” she said.

She highlighted the qualities the organization looks for in a Christmas Mother that helped lead it to Stump, the former executive director of the Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We get together as a board and discuss folks who we feel are really big in the community, have that volunteer, giving heart and want to help others, because we want them to represent somebody who wants to help our community,” Showalter said. “So that’s how we decide.”

She affirmed that the board felt the need for PECM and a strong Christmas Mother was intensified this year given the unusual circumstances imposed on the area by the pandemic.

“We definitely were like, ‘We need somebody who’s going to be like, ‘I got this,’” she said, adding that Stump inspired that kind of confidence.

Stump stated that due to the pandemic and its accompanying health safety measures, the program will probably have to be run a little differently this year.

Showalter described what the program’s usual Christmas gift giveaway looks like.

“It’s one day, and it’s in the morning, and people are lined up around the building before we even open the door,” she said. “So we could have 200 people come through in one hour — (that) is what it’s looked like the past couple years, so obviously we cannot safely do that this year.”

An alternate plan has not been solidified yet, but she shared an option being considered.

“One idea is we might have shifts, so we’ll have two days, and we’ll split them up into maybe one-hour, two-hour shifts, and people can decide preference of shift time, and we’ll try to meet people’s preferences and then have volunteers for each shift,” she said.

The effort is already underway to preserve as much of the PECM experience as possible for those participating in the program.

“The best part about Christmas Mother is that the folks get to pick what their child likes,” Showalter said. “We don’t package it and then just give them to them and just hope for the best. We want them to shop for their kids, so we want to stay true to that as much as possible.”

Stump highlighted how in the past, participants have been able to enjoy breakfast when they come to pick out gifts. This year that feature may still be possible in the form of a breakfast bag to go.

“We’re still trying to make it a wonderful experience for them, but there’s some logistics to work out, because we certainly don’t want anyone getting sick,” Stump said.

She mentioned that another obstacle the organization will face will come in the fundraising phase. PECM has held its biggest fundraiser in front of Walmart in the past, and Stump indicated restrictions will make that impossible this year.

But donations to Prince Edward Christmas Mother can be made at the organization’s website, www. PEChristmasMother. com, and those looking to benefit from the program can learn more about it there too. Questions can be sent to PEChristmasMother@ gmail.com.

The organization had also been in the habit of sending paper applications home with students, but alternatives to that plan may have to be developed if in-person classes do not resume soon for Prince Edward County Public Schools. Questions regarding applications and where to find them can be sent to the email address listed above.

Showalter also put out a call for volunteers.

“If there’s people who want to help or be involved or shop, even something simple like that is very helpful,” she said. “We’re always looking for more volunteers.”

“Especially now that it’ll be like two or three days — a set-up day and then several days of shopping,” Stump added.