Christmas for Kids still going strong

    0
    943
    Volunteers for this year's Christmas for Teens concert gather for a group picture. The benefit concert will be held Friday, December 7 beginning at 7 p.m. in Mark Eastman Auditorium at the Oxford hills Comprehensive High School.

    NORWAY — It’s been almost 40 years since a group of concerned Oxford Hills community members stepped up to ensure needy children had presents to unwrap on Christmas morning.

    With the continuing support of the community at large, Christmas for Kids and Christmas for Teens has provided thousands of Oxford Hills School District students and little ones, with an unexpected moment of Christmas joy.
    Last year some 645 children and teens in six Oxford Hills towns were provided gifta ranging from personal care items to books, music, movie and toys and more, said Jean Delamater of Christmas for Teens.
    The program and the needs have continued to grow since Christmas for Kids was formed and began to provide Christmas presents for children from birth to their pre-teen years during what was called the National Year of the Child. That year –1979 – was also the same year that Rightstart Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit  organization serving the children of the Oxford Hills area by providing programs and services began. It now oversees both the Christmas for Kids and Christmas for Teens program, said Delamater.

    Around 1997, the need to fill the gap for families who also have teens they couldn’t afford to buy Christmas presents for was met when the late Jo-Ann Prue started the Christmas for Teens program with the help of the local schools and area churches. After Prue’s death , the program was picked up by Carlene Treadwell, a guidance counselor at Oxford Hills Middle School, and Rhonda Maher, co-owner of Ken & Thom’s floor covering in Norway.

    Now the programs, which are both under the wing of Rightstart, Inc. serve hundreds of children in the Oxford Hills.

    Over the years, the program has benefited from businesses, organizations and individual donations but also from several fund raisers including Jump In The Lake for Kids’ Sake, Breakfast with Santa and the Christmas Express. One of the program’s early strong supporters, the Robinson Manufacturing Mill in Oxford, was lost when the mill shut down, but others have picked up the cause.

    Since around 2000, one of the major fund raisers for the Christmas for Teens program has been the Christmas for Teens Benefit Concert,  originally spearheaded by former high school music teacher Cynthia Wescott.

    This year’s program, which will be held on Friday, December 7 at 7 p.m. in the Mark Eastman Auditorium at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and directed by OHCHS music teacher Dennis Boyd, is themed, “A Cartoon Christmas.”

    Delamater said the performance will feature local performers in the areas of music, dance and drama. More than 40 talented volunteers will be featured in the production.

    Tickets for the event are $10 per person and are now on sale at the Tribune (formerly known as Books-n-Things) at 430 Main St. in Norway. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door.  The snow date is Saturday, December 8.

    Application process

    The programs provide gifts to children birth to 12th grade. All applications much meet economic guideline and students must be full-time in Oxford Hills School District.

    The application deadline for both Christmas for Kids/Teens is Thursday, December 6th.  Applications are available at Community Concepts in Paris, Chamber of Commerce in Paris, guidance offices in the Oxford Hills School District schools and by mail at Rightstart, Inc., P.O. Box 726, Norway, ME 04268.

    Donations can also be mailed to the same address. Requests for help include include personal care items, books, warm clothing, sport items, music, movies, and toys.

    For further information for Christmas for Kids, call Connie Allen at 207-743-5728  or for Christmas for Teens, Jean Delamater at 207-539-4587.

    ldixon@sunmediagroup.net