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Donations are being sought to help keep the elderly warm in the Wrap the Elderly with Warmth for Christmas project, including blankets, socks, gloves, scarves and hats.
The donated items will be given to elderly patients at nursing homes for Christmas. They should be turned in by Dec. 15 at Servants Heart Outreach, 2021 NW Loop 286; or Creative Candy Designs, 115 S. Main St.
For more information, contact Polly Shirley at 903-249-5759.
Christians in Action has provided a Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of needy and homeless for years. A lack of funds threatened to derail that tradition this year, but local volunteers and businesses are stepping up to make sure it happens.
The lunch is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 27 at Christians in Action on First Street Southwest near the farmers market. There will be a Toys for Tots drop-off, as well.
The effort is being spearheaded by Melissa Wickersham, who has worked CIA’s Thanksgiving off and on since she was 15 years old. She said CIA Director Don Walker came into came into Creative Candy Designs one day. Wickersham asked how volunteer recruitment was going.
“He said, ‘We can’t do it this year,’” she said.
“Me and my big mouth said, ‘That’s not going to happen.’”
She started making plans and spoke with friend Tara Lamendola, who called her husband Doug. Wickersham said he was having lunch with Paris Regional Medical Center CEO Stephen Grubbs.
“Doug looked at Steve and said, ‘Terra and Melissa are going to be feeding the homeless. We need to help or we’re never going to hear the end of it,’” she said.
“Steve didn’t bat an eyelash. He said, ‘Let’s have the hospital help.’”
PRMC picked up the cost of most of the food, including turkeys, dressing, corn, green beans, the makings for salad, sweet potatoes and pies.
Others have gotten in on the act, as well. Coca-Cola is providing tea. An anonymous entrepreneur has picked up the cost of the paper goods.
CIA only has two small buildings, and the effort feeds 350 to 400 a year. To keep people from having to eat outside, First Federal Community Bank and other local businesses and individuals plan to provide tents. Eric and Melody Clifford are donating tables and chairs.
“The schools are doing place mats with Thanksgiving messages on them,” Wickersham said. “The extra ones we have, we’re going to send home with some fresh fruit.”
Dollins Bail Bonds, Susan Turner and Gaylon Maddox plan to provide the fruit.
Christians in Action still needs:
“If people are interested in volunteering, I’m pretty full, but I will do the best I can,” Wickersham said. “If someone would like to volunteer to do trashcan duty or provide some trashcans and liners, I totally need those.”
People are also needed to serve drinks, make salads, tea and coffee, cut pies and place mats on tables. Starting at 8 a.m. the day of the meal, volunteers are needed to help put up tables, chairs, tents and food stations. More are needed to shuttle food from PRMC to Holy Cross Episcopal Church, which has large ovens that can be used to keep food warm. When it’s over, volunteers will be needed to take everything down.
On Nov. 26, volunteers are needed to clean the tables and chairs and move them from the airport to Christians in Action.
Those who want to help but can’t make the actual event can drop off canned goods and toys for Toys for Tots at Creative Candy Designs, 115 S. Main.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Melissa Wickersham at Creative Candy Designs at 903-785-0432.
Although things are quickly ramping up for the Christmas season, Santa Claus took some time from his busy schedule to read to dozens of children, parents and grandparents at Paris Public Library on Saturday.
“It’s for all ages. I have adults who want to get into the childlike spirit of Christmas,” Children’s Librarian Tracy Hoffart said. “Stories are fun for everyone. I encourage all ages to come for story time with Santa.”
Although she was Santa’s host at the library, Hoffart said Main Street Coordinator Cheri Bedford set the story time up as part of this year’s holiday festivities downtown.
Santa Claus is scheduled to return for more story time at 11 a.m. Dec. 7 and 11:15 a.m. Dec. 14.
Wreaths and bows adorned the walls. A reindeer, snowman and other figures rested near Santa’s chair. Stockings were hung from the ceiling with care, and a table sat nearby with several books in the hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.
“I heard Santa’s sleigh in the sky,” Hoffart told the kids near 11 a.m. “I heard a light jingle-jingle. I think he’s on his way.”
A few minutes later, the jolly old elf strode in the door with books in hand, offering his trademark laugh and wishing everyone a merry Christmas.
Story time took place in a room the library uses for special children’s programs so Hoffart could keep the temperature down.
“He’s got a brand new suit,” she said. “It’s nice, but it’s pretty hot.”
Indeed, as he ventured to his seat, Santa could be heard breathing heavily. Even with the air conditioning on, he still needed a fan to keep him from overheating.
One boy ventured the opinion that North Pole must be awesome.
“It’s awesome all over the world,” he replied.
Santa displayed a sharp eye, recognizing adults he delivered to as children, even spying the “big kid back there with a camera” from eParis Extra.
He read All You Need for a Snowman, Frosty the Snowman and Merry Christmas, Merry Crow. After the first book, Hoffat sat beside Santa to help him turn pages and present the stories.
“Ms. Claus couldn’t make it,” Santa said. “She had to take care of all those elves.”
Given that the books featured Christmas stories, it came as little surprise when children spotted him in the illustrations.
“I see you, Santa!” one girl said. “I see you in the book.”
The stories weren’t the only thing on children’s minds.
“I want to see your reindeer, Santa,” one girl said.
“They’re out in the street,” he replied. “It’s hard to land here with all the trees.”
Santa took time after the stories to talk to kids about what they wanted for Christmas and let parents take pictures. Even Hoffart and District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake posed in Saint Nick’s lap. Interestingly, although Santa Claus is known to reside at the North Pole, sources close to the old elf have told eParis Extra he bears a striking resemblance to Stephen Holmes, a former Paris Police officer.
Tracy Hoffart also conducts private field trips for school classes and daycares. If anyone is interested, call the library at 903-785-8531.
First United Methodist Church of Paris is looking for some help in sprucing up downtown.
The church, located at 322 Lamar Avenue, is looking to beautify its large parking lot. Plans call for a walking trail and green belt around the perimeter, a “splash pad” where kids can play and a musical playground.
“If it was up to me, it would be done months ago, but there is the whole funding issue,” the Rev. Rob Spencer, pastor of the church, told the Paris City Council on Monday. “We’ve got to see what the church can pick up.”
Spencer said when he first visited Paris, he saw a lot to like, as well as some areas that could use improvement – such as the parking lot. The church has discussed what to do with it for some time, he said.
“This project has turned out to cost a little more than we thought,” he said. “If people would be interested in helping us make that happen, that would be great.”
At the very least, Spencer said he hopes to see the splash pad operational by next summer.
District 3 Councilman John Wright said he hopes such development will become “infectious” around town. Earl Erickson, a member of the congregation, noted that a survey about parks ranked a water play area very high.
“This project will be a stimulus for tourism and economic development, particularly in the downtown area,” he said.
District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake said Sulphur Springs has a splash park that draws a lot of attention. She expressed some concern that FUMC’s conceptual drawing showed its water area rather close to the street. Spencer said the track and a wider green belt would move it farther inside than shown.
“This will enhance the city a whole lot,” Drake said. “I appreciate the church taking on a project like this.”
The council directed City Manager John Godwin to offer what aid he could. Even without city involvement, some council members said it will likely be a success just from those getting behind it.
“With Earl involved, his determination will no doubt make sure it moves forward,” District 5 Councilman Matt Frierson said. Erickson has been a driving force behind the success of the Trail de Paris and its expansion.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra
The city of Paris is looking at helping people fix their homes rather than tear them down.
Paris City Council members discussed a simple loan program Monday that would offer up to $5,000 for homeowners in the tax abatement zones to fix up their houses and keep them from needing to be torn down. The city would guarantee half of each loan.
“If you put it in the areas of town that need improvement, it does not require all the FDIC requirements banks have to go through now to give a home improvement loan,” Mayor AJ Hashmi said.
The mayor said he met with the presidents of four local banks, and all seemed enthusiastic about the idea.
“It creates taxable property on the tax rolls rather than an empty lot,” he said.
Paris has about $250,000 set aside for demolishing run-down buildings. Eventually, that amount will be used up, and the number of dilapidated homes will increase, Hashmi said.
As proposed, the program would be budget neutral. The city would set aside $100,000 from its demolition fund to guarantee $2,500 of each loan – which is about how much it costs to tear down a house.
The loans would primarily be for exterior repairs such as a new roof that could weatherproof the house and keep water out.
Once water gets in an old building, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes uninhabitable, City Manager John Godwin said.
Work such as replacing faulty wiring could also be a possible candidate.
“I think it’s a great possible program,” Godwin said. “It may or may not work, but it is worth trying.”
The city manager will bring a formal proposal to the council, but some of the proposed requirements include:
“The only downside of this program would be if someone defaults,” Hashmi said. “The city would still have a lien on it. The outside of the property would be fixed.”
District 6 Councilwoman Cleonne Drake asked about interest rates on the loans. Hashmi said he could not speak for the banks, but said such small loans would not have huge interest rates.
“The purpose of this project is to help improve the city,” he said. “It seems they would be very willing to be competitive.”
The City Council recently approved a tax abatement zone — basically everything inside Loop 286 and west of Northeast 20th Street, plus an area west of Loop 286 and south of U.S. 82, and an area outside the southeast loop. None of council districts 6 or 7 is included in the abatement zone.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra