Last year, in celebration of Center of Hope volunteer Patsy Wilson’s life, the Wilson family donated bags of oranges and candy canes to help those in need around the holidays. A total of 112 bags of Cuties and 3,024 candy canes were donated around Christmas.
Growing up in Tyler, Patsy’s favorite thing at Christmas time was receiving an orange. It was outside the means of her family’s budget, but a treasure for that time of year.
This year, the Wilsons are beginning the second annual Patsy Wilson Citrus Drive in hopes of helping even more. Her daughter-in-law, Leigh Wilson, said her family would attempt to reproduce the success of last year.
“Because none of us are physically there this year, I called Gloria (Barber, Center of Hope Director of Operations) and said that all of us were going to donate money to the mission,” Wilson said. “That is what we’re going to do for our Christmas for each other. We picked the food distribution date of Dec. 16 to be when they will give out the oranges and candy canes as they did last year.”
The family’s goal this season is to raise $5,000 for Polk County Center of Hope. It is a busy time of year for the Center, and the money could go a long way toward helping those in need.
“Last year we kind of did it spur of the moment and, in the obituary for Patsy, asked to please make donations to the Polk County Mission,” Wilson said. “This year, we’re going to challenge Polk County to meet us and take what oranges they can, and whatever leftover money, to send so Center of Hope can use however they think is most needed.”
Wilson said the family is hoping to make the citrus drive an annual event, giving something different to the people of Polk County and providing a memorable Christmas. In the past, the Wilsons would donate to charity causes instead of purchasing Christmas gifts for each other.
The family is asking those who would like to participate to tell the Center of Hope “Patsy sent me,” with groceries, produce, checks or cash. The Center of Hope has a few Facebook messages this week encouraging the same. As of press time, $1,000 has been raised.
“The funds that come in specified for this time of year, we add to the food choices for Christmas dinners,” Barber said of Center of Hope’s efforts. “We try to just meet the needs of everyone and it is a hard time of year for a lot of people. We try to make it a little more cheerful.”
The Center’s director said toys for children are also part of the Christmas delivery.
“We don’t purchase, we have had a lot donated. The Hook ‘n Needle Club has crocheted more items and donated toys. Central Baptist has also donated toys, so we won’t purchase any, but we will hand out those
that have been donated. The main thing that we will purchase will just be extra food items, that way, you don’t just get the basics. You will get citrus and you will get stuffing and things that will help meals and spread a little cheer.”
If the Wilsons can reach their goal of $5,000, it would enable the Center of Hope to double the amount of families they reach. They already serve between 550 and 600 families in a month, which feeds 1,600-1,700 individuals.
“It just does your heart good to have people reach out,” Barber said. “Not just this group, but we have had food drives from the probation department, from the Montessori school, from different churches and Pedigo’s. The community just comes together and we live in a great community. It still always just warms your heart to see how many
people want to help in whatever way they can for the season.”