Henrico County VA

Christmas Mothers Gear Up for the Holidays

The orange and black decorations in stores have yet to give way to red and green, but Henrico residents can rest assured that the Christmas season has officially begun.

At the annual Henrico Christmas Mother kickoff coffee, held Oct. 18 at Belmont Recreation Center, Christmas Mother "alumni" from as far back as 1977 gathered to recognize the 2010 honoree – and to celebrate almost 70 years of helping needy neighbors enjoy Christmas with new clothing, ample food, and gifts.

Henrico Christmas Mother Council President Shelly Poole announced that for the first time, donations to the Christmas Mother program can be made through the program's website – and that the convenience of giving online has already brought in some first-time donors.

In other good news, said Poole, Martin's Food and Drug will be reinstituting the Ukrop’s Share a Holiday Meal program and providing gift cards to the Christmas Mother program at discounted rates.

Anne Southworth, the 1997 Christmas Mother, also noted that a recent book-signing held by her daughter brought in more than $2,000 for the program.

Maribeth Southworth, a 1978 graduate of Hermitage High School, held a reading and signing Oct. 16 at Crossridge for her book, "She Finally Sat Down – 50 Years of Memories, Musings and Melodrama." Proceeds from book sales at the event were donated to the Henrico Christmas Mother.

The extra donations could not have been more timely, Poole said, considering the growth in number of families served each season, and the indications that more than 6,000 individuals will require assistance this year.

Carolyn Bush, who serves as liaison between the Christmas Mother and Henrico County Public Schools, reported that letters from the superintendent have already gone out to school principals, who are challenging students to contribute canned goods and toys by offering unique incentives – such as promises to kiss a pig when goals are met.

"The great thing about the Christmas Mother program is that every child has the opportunity to bring in something – a can of food," said Bush. And Christmas Mothers were quick to back Bush up with stories of students from low-income households offering canned goods and hard-earned dimes "for someone who needs it."

Dorothy M. Tatem, the 2010 Christmas Mother, comes from a family of nine children herself and can relate to the life situations of many recipients.

In 1973, Tatem was the first African American female to enlist in the Virginia Air National Guard. After serving as an inventory management specialist, the long-time Fairfield resident retired from the Guard in 2004 as a senior master sergeant.

As the 69th Henrico Christmas Mother, she will visit schools and civic organizations, appear in local parades, meet with volunteers and donors, and lead the efforts of the 15 volunteer co-chairs who solicit donations and recruit volunteers to staff the Henrico Christmas Mother Warehouse in December.

In addition to thanking Bush and the school system employees, Poole also paid tribute to co-chairs Lisa Orlosky and Juliana Haalboom for their efforts representing Henrico County government employees. County Manager Virgil Hazelett, who has worked with the program for more than 35 years, came in for his share of appreciation as well.

Attending the annual gathering and seeing the energy and commitment of the volunteers, responded Hazelett, never fails to inspire him.

"It doesn't matter what my day [at work] is like," Hazelett told the women. "All I have to do is come here, and life slows down.

"And life is good."

The Henrico Christmas Mother will take requests from Henrico families with children, the elderly, and disabled adults at 361 Dabbs House Road on Nov. 1, 8 and 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Nov. 15 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Applicants must bring the following: proof of county residence; social security cards for all household members; income verification, such as pay stubs, Medicaid cards, or food stamp card; and disability certification for any disabled adults.

To avoid duplication of effort, applicants must agree not to request help from similar agencies assisting families for Christmas.


For information about donating, volunteering, or applying to the Christmas Mother program, call 236-9741 or visit henricochristmasmother.org. To sponsor a family for Christmas, call 501-5538. To make a donation by check, mail to Henrico Christmas Mother, P.O. Box 27, Sandston, VA 23150.

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