Members of the Hampden-Sydney College family teamed up with the Farmville community to serve area children by providing them with clothing, toys, books, and other Christmas gifts. After months of hard work, the Prince Edward Christmas Mother organization presented gifts to nearly 300 children on Wednesday, December 7, at the Firemen’s Sports Arena in Farmville.
The current president of Prince Edward Christmas Mother, Hampden-Sydney Elliot Professor of Psychology Jennifer Vitale gives insight into the group’s operations: “The process involves a lot of running around and speaking to groups and writing letters. We choose a new Christmas Mother each year, and they help with this whenever they can.” The Christmas Mother is an active community member who serves as the face of the organization for that year and is a crucial part of connecting with community members to bring in donations and spread awareness about the group’s mission. This year’s Christmas Mother was Patsy Watson, who Vitale commended for her hard work.
The Prince Edward Christmas Mother organization was established in 2016 by a small group of women in Prince Edward County who sought to make a difference for children in need. Each year, numerous fundraising events and toy drives are held to provide Christmas gifts to deserving local children. Beginning in October, Christmas Mother members orchestrate a letter-writing campaign to local businesses and organizations, which acts as one of their main fundraisers. In November, the organization holds a Stuff the Truck toy drive in town. This year, Haley of Farmville provided two trucks for the event, which was held at the Farmville Walmart.
In the past, Hampden-Sydney had its own program to provide gifts to children in need. As time progressed, the College teamed up with Prince Edward Christmas Mother, hoping to make a bigger impact by joining forces. Hampden-Sydney College now has several members on the Prince Edward Christmas Mother executive board. Director of Student Affairs Operations, Orientation, and Civic Engagement Sandy Cooke serves as treasurer and, along with some Hampden-Sydney students, assisted with preparing gifts. “I love this organization,” Cooke says. “In the past, we helped around 150 to 200 children when it was solely Hampden-Sydney, but combined with Christmas Mother, we are helping around 300 children.”
Hampden-Sydney students also got involved, showing what it means to be good men and good citizens. Some students went shopping for gifts, while others helped arrange and prepare donations that had already been received. Hampden-Sydney’s chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa and members of the Hampden-Sydney Mentor Program purchased over $2,000 in toys. Michael Rowe ’23 assisted with preparing gifts to be distributed at the Firemen’s Sports Arena, while Justin Stimpson ’23 dedicated hours to preparing bikes that Walmart donated to the organization. “Justin fixed all 42 bikes that Walmart had donated, and all were taken at the event,” Cooke says, going on to praise Justin for his dedication and willingness to help others. Other student groups came together to raise funds. Brady Hillis ’26 organized a team that sold “BEAT Macon” t-shirts, generating $1,700 for Christmas Mother.
The months of hard work paid off as families and children chose their holiday gifts. Dr. Vitale expressed excitement about the distribution process, noting, “Families can make choices here. I remember a child who was really interested in Pokémon. He could go from table to table to choose what Pokémon gift he wanted. I like that families get a choice instead of being handed a random gift.”
In the spring, the process will begin again when Prince Edward Christmas Mother meets to prepare for the next holiday season and choose the next Christmas Mother.
Thank you to all who donated and contributed to support Prince Edward Christmas Mother!