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The heart of Christmas: A personal story

By By Fredie Carmichael/The Meridian Star
Dec. 20, 2001
After covering a few local volunteer groups that have been helping needy families this Christmas, I have found a new sense of appreciation for the value of their work.
They give countless hours of sweat and tears for a cause about which they are passionate. And they expect nothing in return.
I'd like to share one of those stories with you.
The other night as I exited through the double doors at the new Super Wal-Mart, the sound of a ringing bell quickly welcomed me. The nice lady who was working the Salvation Army's bell ringing station that night simply said, "Have a nice Christmas" as I walked by her.
I started to walk on by, like I normally do, but since I had some loose change in my pocket I walked back to her and dropped a couple of quarters into the little red kettle.
And then she said something I neither expected nor fully understood at the time. "Thank you sir," she said. "Now someone will be able to have food on the table for Christmas."
At the time I didn't think twice about my 50-cent contribution. I had never thought of the millions of volunteers across the country who take that money and buy turkeys, hams, mashed potatoes, drinks, toys and countless other things to distribute to needy families.
On Wednesday I met a few of those people and saw my 50 cents in action.
Capt. Joe Mur, co-commander of the local Salvation Army, showed me around the room that he affectionately called "the room of dreams." The warehouse is the old Synergy building on Highway 45 next to Johnson Mobile Homes. The Salvation Army was using the building to house the toys gathered through the Angel Tree program.
About 50 volunteers  some of them Salvation Army workers, some volunteers from local church groups, and some employees of nearby Avery Dennison  worked hard distributing toys and food to designated needy families from all over the area.
I watched as these ordinary everyday people worked together ensuring that families they didn't even know will have a good Christmas. What was even more amazing is that they kept talking about how amazing the people were who went out and bought the gifts, never acknowledging what they were doing.
As we made our way through the warehouse to the back of the building, there were about 20 other people loading boxes and cars with food. While Capt. Mur showed what types of food they were putting in the boxes, I trying to be a good reporter continued to ask questions.
That's when the revelation happened. When I asked where all of the food came from, Capt. Mur said, "You're probably more familiar with our kettle campaign. Well, this is where some of that money gets spent."
So it hit me. That's why the bell-ringer said my 50 cents would help put food on the table for a family at Christmas. My two quarters, seeming insignificant at the time, went a long way. I saw my contribution at work.
I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I couldn't ask another question. I just sort of wandered around and watched the workers as they continued to make dreams come true.
So this year, when you're opening your gifts on Christmas morning, just take a minute to picture all of those unfortunate children who will hop on their new bikes and all the families who will sit down to a big Christmas dinner.
And when you have that picture in your head, just remember all of those volunteers this Christmas who put in all those selfless hours to turn your meaningless loose change into smiles on people's faces.
Fredie Carmichael is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3228, or e-mail him at