Dear Bath County,
In order to say thank you, I need to tell you my Christmas Mother story that I have titled “Once upon a Wow.”
One of my best and dearest friends who has now passed away, would call me every day and sometimes she would have some very interesting news to tell me.
After she would finish talking, she would say, “say something Cherie” and my response would always be “wow.” Well that is how I am feeling after being Christmas Mother, speechless with the exception of saying “wow.”
My first “wow” started back in April when I received the phone call asking if I would be the Christmas Mother for 2020. I could not answer right away as I knew that I worked full-time and that I attend to the needs of my mother and step father who are both in their 70s so I had to pray about it.
I prayed and told God if you tell me yes, I will do it. His answer was yes and that if he brought me to this, he would see me through it. So I agreed to be the Christmas Mother.
My second “wow” was when I saw my picture in the paper and that is when it really set in that I am the Bath County Christmas Mother for 2020.
October was the beginning of my third “wow” when the action started and it has been none stop: signing and mailing out over 500 donation letters, sending out applicants, holding application days, making and receiving phone calls, sending/receiving emails, and the list goes on and on.
My fourth “wow” came in November when the donations started to come in. I was in awe at the amount of generosity.
I was also in awe when a wonderful woman told me that she wanted to make sure that every applicant was warm this winter and that she would be purchasing heating pads for all of the families and that she was going to contact several of her friends and start a fuel fund drive.
The Virginia Hot Springs Preservation Trust fund also gave significant donations for fuel. Also in November, I was able to reconnect with a young lady who I used to babysit who donated a dollhouse that was over 30 years old and was in excellent condition.
My fifth “wows” (noticed I added an s) because there are so many for the month of December. On the day of set up, the shop was full of people who came to volunteer to get the shop organized. Those people included past Christmas mothers, Beta Club students, the shop committee, and my wonderful co-worker and friend, Amanda Frame.
Due to COVID-19, it had been decided that all shopping would be done online. Well, early one morning, Tiffany Myers, the shop manager who had set up the online account sent me a text saying the type of credit card that the Christmas mother has been issued cannot be used to purchase items online. Tiffany said for me not to worry because where there is a will there is a way.
I had to go to Roanoke that same day and in a store sitting on a shelf was coffee cup that said “All things are possible for those who Believeth. Mark 9: 23.”
Even though I did not need another coffee cup, I had to buy it because it was in line with my theme of Just Believe and I felt it was God speaking to me letting me know that everything would be alright. Later that afternoon, Tiffany texted me again saying she had a shopping team together and they would start shopping over the weekend. Wow !!
When the shop opened on Dec.7, I found out that the assistant shop manager, Linda Cardwell would not be able to participate due to health issues.
However with her daughter in law’s help, she was able to shop for several families. In her absence, I called a previous shop trainer/assistant, Jackie Stephenson and she said “Cherie, I will be right there. Thanks for calling me.” My niece by heart and love, Jillian Brown, who was home from college, also filled in as shop assistant and a shopper.
For the two weeks that the shop was opened, we received phone calls from people wanting to adopt families. We received donated items that included new coats, new clothes, packs of underwear, socks, t-shirts, warm blankets, handmade hats, scarfs, headbands, hundreds of hot wheels in the packages already in gift bags, art sets, baby items, cases of diapers/wipes, stuffed animals, 10 boxes of toys from Toys for Tots, 2 televisions, 6 new bikes, wood items created by High School students, a guitar with the case, furniture, box spring, a ladder, an axe for chopping wood, a tablet and many gently used items.
One of the most touching donation was a phone call that I received from an Alleghany County couple who wanted to make a donation of a load of wood. I choose an applicant and gave the directions to the house. About an hour later, the wife called back and said “Cherie, I think we delivered to the wrong house” and then explained the situation. However she said “we are going to get another load ready and take it to the right house.” Wow!
There were angel trees placed at Lifeline Ministries Church, Summit Bank and the Bath County Courthouse. The angels had been made by the kindergarten classes at Millboro Elementary and Valley Elementary schools. One Saturday morning, I received a call from the branch manager of Summit Bank in Mitchelltown informing me that an anonymous woman came in the bank and wrote out a check to cover the cost of gifts for angels that had not been adopted and that the manager would be doing all of the shopping for angels. Wow!!
The second week of the shop, my shop manager had to be out for a few days. Then day of the snow, we had to close the shop. I was so worried as I knew that there was so much still to be done but I had to “Believe” that everything would be alright and we would get it done. Wednesday evening, I received a call informing me that the wrappers scheduled for Thursday would not be able to make it due to weather. I sent out a text to my shop manager and a past Christmas Mother and they both said “I’ll be there tomorrow.” I told them to be prepared to be there until midnight. We opened at 10:00 Thursday morning and three wrappers showed up. I believed and God and he provided. I called in another past Christmas Mother and she came right after she got off from work at 5:00 and stayed and worked until after 9:00pm. Finally at 11:50pm, myself, my shop manager, and a past Christmas Mother looked around the finished shop and said “We did it.” We then realized we had to be home before Midnight because of the governor’s curfew so we turned off the lights and left and was back the next morning for distribution.
I think my most impressive Wow, was the fact that I had a goal of raising $100,000 in donations. I succeeded in that goal and even went beyond the $100, OOO. Now that is a BIG WOW!!!Now that you know my story, the words Thank You just don’t seem enough.
Thank you to Lifeline Ministries for the use of their gymnasium to set up shop. Thank you to Hot Springs Presbyterian Church for the use of their social hall to set up the food baskets. Thank you to every individual, family, business, church and organization that gave so much of their time, money, donated items and for the many notes of encouragement I received. Thank you to my committee, Tiffany Myers, there are no words to describe how much you helped me to keep myself and the shop going. Thank you to Susanne Fischer, the shop trainer and assistant. Thank you to Shirley Williams, my wrapper coordinator. To my lunch coordinator, Momma Pat. This special lady drove 3 ½ hours from Fredericksburg, VA to stay in Bath Co. with her daughter and son-in-law for 2 weeks in order to see to us having lunch every day. She and her daughter also kept the lunch table decorated in purple and they placed a red truck carrying a Christmas tree on the table. Also, thank you to all of the local restaurants and Bed and Breakfasts for providing lunch during the days the shop was open. Katha Seacord, what a powerful force of energy and joy. She served as the food basket coordinator but she also spearheaded fuel donations and made sure that people will be warm this winter. Thank you Katha. Susan Phillips and Pam Webb, the fuel coordinator and treasurer. Thank you both for what you have done so far and what you still have to do in order to pay the debts and make sure applicants receive their fuel assistance. Many Thanks to Linda Vinson, the Data entry coordinator. She also printed the shopper sheets and spreadsheets and the Family ID sheets. Thank you to Terry Jackson, who has already delivered loads of wood to applicants. Thank you to several classes and teachers at the Bath County High School for decorating bags for the residents at the Nursing Home, making the numbers for the applicant boxes, for making the wood items and for adopting a family. Thank you to the children and teachers at Valley and Millboro Elementary for making the angels for the trees Thank you to Mark Nelson and the people who donated money to purchase bikes for the children. Thank you to Toys for Tots for the many boxes of toys. Thank you to all of the wrappers especially to Debbie who provided the shop with donated wrapping paper from the Main Street Shop in Covington and to the shopper team that Tiffany was able to put together. I know you spent some long hours in Walmart. Speaking of Walmart, there were two cashiers that always checked me out when I shopped and they were both so patient and friendly. Thank you to the people/churches who adopted angels off the tree and to those who adopted individuals and families. To all of the Owner’s Club members, thank you for your donations. It was such a pleasure to work with Erica Doyle and Karen Williams. Thank you to the local banks, Summit, Highland Community and BB&T for your donations. Thank you to Dollar General in Hot Springs for the Toy Drive. Thank you to the Homestead for your donation of turkeys.
Thank you to the Greenbrier for the toys from the Dream Tree. Thank you to the past Christmas Mothers and their spouses for helping in the shop especially on the day of distribution. To my sister of heart and love and you know who you are. Twenty years ago, you came up to me and introduced yourself which started a wonderful friendship that has developed into a sisterhood. Thank you for being there for me every step of the way. Thank you for being my sounding board and my shoulder to cry on when things got rough. You and your husband (my brother-in-law) mean more to me than you will ever know. Thank you to my director, Jason Miller for giving me the time off from work to fulfill my Christmas Mother duties and my co-workers for filling in my absence. Thank you to Teresa Miller for supplying the shop with boxes and to her father James Carpenter for delivering the boxes. James and his wife Darlene also housed the Christmas Mother sign that has been up kept by Todd Lacks for many years. Thank you to all of the applicants who dealt with me through a few mistakes that I made along the way. If there is anyone that I have left out, please forgive me and charge it to my mind, not my heart.
However the most important Thank you goes to God. You gave me the words “Just Believe” in the scriptures and though my faith was weak at times, I kept believing. I wanted this Christmas to be special for people especially since we are in the middle of a pandemic. So to all of you from me, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and remember that even though it may not seem like it, everything will be alright. “Just Believe.”
S. Cherie Beale
Bath County Christmas Mother