By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Portales firefighters and city officials were busy on Thursday putting up lights in preparation for the annual lighting of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree, which will take place on Tuesday, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in front of the courthouse.
Started 22 years ago, the program has provided clothing items and toys to children who are in need and who might otherwise not have a Christmas to celebrate, said Joan Martinez-Terry, Portales City Clerk.
Any given year, there are approximately 200 to 250 children who will have their names placed on the Mayor’s Christmas Tree, said Terry.
“It’s been a great project,” said Martinez-Terry. “The community of Portales has responded every year.”
During the festival, citizens are encouraged to pick a name from the tree.
After the name is picked, the requested items are purchased and returned to city hall for distribution. The gifts will be then be distributed by volunteer Santas beginning at 4 p.m. on Dec. 12, said Martinez-Terry.
On Tuesday evening, the festival will include entertainment from students at Steiner Elementary, Portales Junior High and Portales High schools, according to a press release from the city of Portales. Refreshments will also be furnished, compliments of the Portales Woman’s Club.
The program has been a success since it’s inception , said Martinez-Terry. Several businesses in the community donate items to the project.
The Piecemakers Quilt Club donates stockings each year to the program. The stockings are then filled with fruit and candy and distributed to the children, said Martinez-Terry.
“Everybody in Portales helps,” said Martinez-Terry. “They want to make sure that all the children are taken care of.”
According to Martinez-Terry, the program would not be successful without the help of city employees, community members and local business. On Monday, Lou Sikes and her art class students will decorate the tree that is located in the lobby of the City Hall. The children’s names will then be placed on the tree for citizens to take, said Martinez-Terry.
Another added bonus to the program, is that siblings in the family also receive a gift when they are delivered. This allows them to not be left out. Turkey vouchers are also given to the families, so that they can purchase the turkey for Christmas from the donor store, said Martinez-Terry.
“This is a great program, said Debi Lee, Portales City Manager. They go to great lengths to make sure family members are OK with it (the gifts) and the siblings are also taken care of.”