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Jackson House spreads compassion, cheer

by Elisha Morrison | November 21, 2015 at 4:00 a.m.
The Sentinel-Record/Richard Rasmussen HOLIDAY CHEER: Jane Jackson, right, with Jackson House Executive Director Janie Smith, left, and volunteer Georgia Dodson, donated dolls on Friday for children who are served by Jackson House during the holiday season. Dodson and her sister, Ann Taylor, hand sewed clothing for the dolls.

With holidays and school breaks approaching, Eleanor Klugh Jackson House for Crisis Intervention, 705 Malvern Ave., is asking the community's help in keeping families fed and spreading some seasonal cheer.

Janie Smith, executive director of the Jackson House, said families in need will face three weeks without school meals for their children. If a family has two children who normally receive breakfast and lunch every day at school, it will have to provide 60 additional meals over the school holidays, she said. To help out, Jackson House is supplying families more food and more child-friendly foods, such as cereal, ravioli and hearty soups.

When Jackson House assembles food boxes, the volunteers always work to ensure the contents meet each family's needs, said Smith. While it needs typical food items such as canned meats, beans and vegetables, it also needs foodstuffs for people with diabetes and other medical conditions.

Smith purchases some of the food from Project Hope Food Bank, so that the money given to Jackson House buys $3 worth of food for every dollar spent. She mixes what she is able to buy at the food bank with donated food to give families a healthy variety.

Throughout the season, Jackson House will continue to serve meals seven days a week. It will be closed Thanksgiving Day and the day after to allow the organizations in town serve their holiday meals.

As the weather turns colder, Smith said Jackson House will also need items to distribute to help keep people warm, including blankets, scarves, hats, gloves, sleeping bags and tents.

From Dec. 14-24, during normal business hours, Jackson House plans to give out bags of gifts to every child in the families they serve. Smith said the bags will include age-appropriate toys and books, school supplies, warm clothing including scarves and hats, a soft comforting item such as a teddy bear, toiletries and candy. For older children, it may include sweaters, perfume or cologne instead of toys. Jackson House will accept donations for the gifts through Dec. 24.

Smith said these gifts are important because she sees many families who may not accept anything all year, but they will come to ensure there are gifts for their children on Christmas Day.

She also said the gifts give children hope that someone cares about them.

Smith asks that gifts not be wrapped so both they and the parent can see what the gift is. The gifts will be put in black bags so the children won't be able to see what is inside when the parents pick up the gifts.

Businesses and organizations around the Hot Springs area are stepping in to help ensure there are plenty of gifts for all the children Jackson House serves. Three Dollar General stores, located at 717 Carpenter Dam Road, 3310 Central Ave., and 2550 Airport Road, are holding a toy drive to benefit Jackson House. St. Luke's Episcopal School and Church and Knights of Columbus, Hot Springs Village, are also holding toy drives.

In addition to presents, Smith said they are giving families seasonal items to help celebrate the holidays, including ornaments, wrapping paper, gift bags and Christmas trees.

Smith said that while they like new donations, they are happy with gently used items. When they get used toys, they put them in the front room for children to take home.

"There is not anything you can give us that we can't find someone who needs it," said Smith.

During the holidays and throughout the year, Jackson House is always in need of volunteers. During a normal month, Smith said they have around 400 volunteers who help sort gifts and donations, distribute food and work in the two thrift stores. Smith said she really loves when children volunteer, because it teaches them the importance of volunteering early.

"I am grateful to our community. We have an awesome caring, connected community," said Smith.

Local on 11/21/2015

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