Christmas Mother Tradition Continues to Grow

by Christy Nealey, Technology Specialist II, Department of Human Resources

In 1942, a dedicated teacher asked her students to bring in canned goods to donate to those in need in the community. Over 70 years later, her small act of kindness has evolved into one of Henrico County’s largest charitable traditions- The Henrico Christmas Mother. Now, the Christmas Mother council hosts and attends fundraising events throughout the year with various sponsor organizations. In December, once all the items and funds are collected, they are taken to the warehouse where the magic begins. Volunteers spend two days setting up the warehouse in sections with a plethora of new books on display, a variety of clothing items, toys galore and truck loads of nonperishable food! Once distribution begins, a volunteer will “shop” with an approved applicant so he/she can pick out items for his/her loved ones. Every child under 18 years old gets a sweat suit (This year donated by Haynes), 2 pairs of socks, new books, 2 toys, a coloring book, and stocking stuffers. After “shopping” the family member is given nonperishable food items, based on their family size, and a gift card to purchase perishables. Once they are finished, members of our very own Henrico Division of Fire and Department of Public Works load the family’s car. Rebecca Slough, one of this year’s Christmas Mother Co-chairs, remembers how heart warming it was to see the gratefulness of those in need as they saw the generosity of others and selected their entire Christmas for their family who would otherwise have nothing; some even breaking down in tears. 

This tradition wouldn’t be as successful if it wasn’t for the volunteers; including the many Henrico County Government and School employees that organize collection drives, coordinate fundraising events, and help at the warehouse. Every year, we continue to grow in our efforts. Last year, during the campaign there were 15 events hosted by various departments. This year, we have expanded to 25 events! Of course many of the fan favorites came back; like the MH/DS Candy Cane Grams, DPU’s Chip & Chan Chili Challenge, Finance’s Chili and Barbecue, Building Inspection’s Baked Potato Bar, Community Correction’s Hot Dog Day and the many Bake Sales with MH/DS, Finance, Jail East, and the Permit Center. There were also some new, exciting events: 

Juvenile Detention hosted their First Annual Fish Fry which completely sold out! They had perfect weather to enjoy fresh fried fish under canopies with homemade desserts by the staff. 

Jean Moore in the Planning Department issued a challenge to Joe Emerson, Planning Director. If she and her department could raise $1,000, he would complete a surprise task. They raised the money itwo days! She says, “It was awesome, but the success really goes to the enthusiasm and support of my coworkers and especially the agency directors and a couple very generous pledges.” The task is currently a surprise, but be on the lookout at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting on December 10. 

Rec & Parks brought back their breakfast fundraiser that they had last done 6 years ago. Then, it was with just their division, when they were all in the same building. Now, with it open to all employees, they managed to get 30 pre-orders and had an even better turnout. The ladies were at Belmont at 5 am to start on their menu of quiches and French toast. Mary Stanley said many of their employee work on their feet all day so the loved the chance to give back and take care of them. Elaine Olay was absolutely touched when the Park Services guys came in the kitchen with a stack of dishes and silverware and asked to wash them to give the ladies a break. 

IT switched it up this year and instead of doing a bake sale, they went with a Halloween BooBBQ fundraiser that was open to the County. Within an hour they were sold out of pork BBQ. Warren Bowman had smoked meat for the IT Department for additional purchase and some members of IT donated their personal share of BBQ back to the event to sell! 

Human Resources did an Elf Surveillance fundraiser within their various offices. Employees donated to be on the watch team that gets to find “Glitter” the elf. She would hide each day in a different office until she was found.  

Can’t forget the Community Revitalization BBQ Pitmaster’s challenge, the County Manager’s Office dunking booth and the Jail West’s Pie the Chief. All the events this year were very successful and a huge thank you goes to all who participated! As Tanya Harding, one of this year’s Christmas Mother Co-chairs, noted, “every year I am completely blown away with how much our County and our employees do each year.  Every year it is like the campaign and the events get bigger and better.” 

There are still a few events left if you want to participate. December 2 will be the last drop off date for items and then distribution (“Shopping”) starts on December 5. For the funds raised, there will be a mock check presentation at the December 10 Board of Supervisor’s meeting. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Joe Emerson and his holiday spirit! 


For more photos of all of the events, please visit the Christmas Mother page on SharePoint.