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Season of Wishes: Christmas Tree fund in need of donations

NATCHEZ — Christmas wishes can still be granted this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic with help from generous individuals in the Miss-Lou community.

Every year since the early 1900s, one Natchez charity has provided Christmas gifts to hundreds of needy children through donations.

The Natchez Children’s Christmas Tree Fund has had a few different names through the decades, but the tradition of giving to children who might not otherwise have a merry Christmas remains the same, said longtime volunteer Johnny Junkin.

The fund was founded by a former publisher of The Natchez Democrat, James Lambert, with the intent of providing gifts for the less fortunate children of Natchez.

Amid COVID-19, the tradition will continue but will adapt to meet health guidelines, Junkin said.

“We are still going to do it one way or another,” he said, adding plans for a drive-by style toy distribution are underway.

Santa Claus has agreed to help pass out the toys again this year, although the annual Santa Claus Committee parade has been canceled due to the pandemic, Junkin said.

The Natchez Children’s Christmas Tree Fund partnered with the Santa Claus committee to distribute the gifts in the 1920s. Each year, the committee comprised of area businessmen handpicks a Santa from among the group’s members to do the honor of distributing the Christmas presents and ride Rudolph position in a parade on Christmas Eve.

Junkin said 150 families, approximately 300 children between ages 0 and 10, are registered to receive gifts from the fund this year while donations to the fund have only just started to come in.

Families are selected through an application process facilitated by Catholic Charities.

Checks can be made out to the Natchez Children’s Christmas Tree Fund and mailed to P.O. Box 1082, Natchez MS, 39121.

Junkin said monetary donations are preferred so that each child can receive an equal distribution of gifts.

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