I have to let you in on a little secret. If you've paid any attention, you haven't heard nor read anything about the Community Christmas Campaign this year and it's time I explained why.
By way of background, this year marks the 25th year this newspaper has sponsored a Community Christmas Campaign designed to provide holiday toys, food and other items for the less fortunate in our community.
But you may also recall that last year we announced the end of the Campaign because an overwhelming number of applicants were the very same families that have asked for help year in and year out. We don't question their need. But we started to understand that many of these families were in no way trying to improve their position in life and instead were simply bouncing from one service organization to another throughout the year asking for assistance.
In short, we found ourselves being part of the problem, not the solution. That was, and remains, unacceptable.
The Community Christmas Campaign from the very beginning was to provide assistance for those families or individuals who found themselves in temporary need of assistance. A lost job, a family illness or other circumstances could put any of us in that position. But chronic freeloaders with family members able to work yet unwilling to help themselves began to dominate the Campaign list each year.
We heard complaints from Campaign volunteers who would deliver baskets to homes where several family members were sitting on the couch waiting for someone else to provide Christmas for their children. Volunteers walked around fine automobiles and walked around big-screen televisions to put charity baskets on the family's dining room table. And so we said "enough is enough."
So you haven't read anything about the Campaign this year and we accepted no applications from those in need. We made referrals to some agencies who provide assistance. And we told the callers that our campaign was history.
But in the meantime, we contacted the schools and others and devised a list of families who were indeed trying to provide for themselves but who experienced recent difficulties. And we found a number of elderly residents who had no one to provide Christmas cheer.
And yes, we delivered baskets last week just as we have for the prior 24 years. And again, it was only through the generosity of Sikeston residents that this tradition continued.
Were it not for the Sikeston Jaycees, this program would have ended years ago. This dynamic group of young men provided the financial foundation once again that allowed us to help others. It's also important to thank Charter Communications and the Sikeston Public Library for collecting hundreds of toys. And Campaign coordinator Tim Jaynes of our staff notes that there are simply too many faithful volunteers to mention. In short, thank you Sikeston for continuing a tradition we feel is important.
It's sad that we were forced to modify the Campaign but the reality is that some people were ruining a good program for everyone else. This year, we changed all of that.
If the Campaign continues, we will not accept applications but rather find those families in need. And though we're sad that some families will not have their needs met, we hope this change helps us reach those who are trying but struggling.