By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
When the number of children who attended the Change of Mind Christmas program began to crowd the local outreach ministry’s Wilson Avenue headquarters, founder Betty Cox found a larger place for the holiday program.
If this year’s event is any indication, she might soon have to find an even larger venue.
Children, along with their parents or guardians, quickly filled Grace Fellowship Church for the December 16 holiday party, forcing Mrs. Cox and her volunteer helpers to lock its doors to new entrants barely an hour into the three-hour event.
“We just couldn’t fit anybody else in,” Betty said. “You have to watch for when it gets too full to make sure none of the kids get hurt. This is the first time we’ve ever had to do this, and we started in 2007.”
Those who did get inside filled all the tables, sat in chairs along the wall or stood, many with children in their arms, as the event unfolded.
Children were fed pizza by volunteers dressed as elves, while the adults enjoyed chicken salad. There were snacks aplenty, including virtually tons of candy.
The costumed characters who have become a big part of the event – Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Dora the Explorer, The Grinch and others – mingled with the children, while many sat on the laps of Santa and Mrs. Claus to share their Christmas wishes and have their pictures taken.
More than 50 bicycles, along with an undetermined number of tricycles, scooters and other wheeled items were given away to lucky ticket holders, and an array of dolls and other toys lined a wall of the fellowship hall until given to the children.
All in all, it was another great party, the outreach founder said, noting that the chief organizer made it so.
“God is awesome; it just amazes me,” Betty said. “Without Him, this would not be possible. Also, the people who contributed did so from the heart. It would not have happened, it could not have happened, without them.”
She pointed out that those who were turned away were included in the “extended portion” of the program.
“We got the names of the people who left, and made things right with them,” she said. “We always have some who can’t make it. They wanted to come but couldn’t get a ride, things like that, so we take toys to them.”
There are no plans to change the venue again, despite this year’s overflow crowd. But, Betty said, the party will go on.
“Just to see the faces on the children is awesome, and it always will be,” she smiled. “I love it, love it, love it.”