Bath Christmas Mother Follow Pioneer Tradition

Warm Springs, Va – Ever since pioneers began settling in the mountains of western Virginia, neighbors have helped each other in times of need. Misfortune strikes randomly. A family in need one year was often the family providing help to others the next. That’s how strong communities are built.

Bath County residents continue to build a strong community and help their neighbors with the Christmas Mother program. Angie Keyser, this year’s Christmas Mother, explains a bit about the program.

“Well, the Christmas Mother program – it started about 20 years ago,” she said. “I think this is the 20th season. It’s just a program where families apply if they think they need assistance at Christmas time. We provide gifts and we provide food baskets, initially. They list some needs that they need for their homes, or for themselves and for their children.”

Keyser says the Christmas Mother program also provides home heating assistance, beginning in January.

“We take the money that’s left over from our fundraising and then help people with their heating bills or a load of wood,” she said.

Keyser has been active with the Christmas Mother program since moving here six years ago. She says numerous individuals, groups, churches and businesses have supported the campaign – all with one thing in common – a love of the community.

“It is supported by people in the community,” she said. “It’s supported by churches in the community, businesses in the community, but also a lot of people who just love Bath County, and they live, actually, all over the United States.”

Keyser said Bath Community Hospital and Homestead Preserve have been big supporters of the program and tells about two other local businesses where people can get involved.

BB&T Bank is sponsoring a Christmas tree – it’s in their lobby – where somebody can walk in and pick up an item off the Christmas tree and purchase it for somebody and then, BB&T will make sure it gets to the Christmas Mother Shop, so that we get it to the right family,” she said. “So, that’s something that `they’re trying this year that’s new.

“The Dollar General – they actually already have a box in their lobby, where people can go in and purchase an item at the Dollar General and put it in the box and we will find the right family for that item, as well. It can be a toy for a child or it could be – they have winter coats there. They have blankets. They have a whole variety of items that can be used.”

The Christmas Mother says helping neighbors will lift your spirits.

“That’s kind of fun, I think, when a group of friends or co-workers all come together and say, ‘let’s just take one person or three people and shop for them.'”

This year, Christmas Mother will brighten the holidays for 300 community members.

“I entered the 125th family this morning,” she said. “Some families might have five, six, seven, eight people in them. But a lot of them only have one person – it’s just a single person living alone. Right now, it’s right around 300 people.”

Keyser says, ‘don’t be too stubborn to ask for a helping hand.’

“I look at the fact that we have 125 different applications, with a few more coming in,” she said. “But, probably, for every application, there’s somebody out there who won’t apply, and they should. They really should consider applying. There are a lot of people who just do it for one year. They do – they have a rough year, so they’ll apply for that one year.

“Then, there are people who are living on a fixed income, who do need the program every year, which is great, as well.

“A lot of people are out of jobs and the heating and the food costs are rising and astronomical. So, it’s expected that more and more people would be reaching out for the Christmas Mother program.”

The Christmas Mother provides information for those who want to help.

“The Christmas Mother Shop will be at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church and it will open Wednesday, November 30 until Friday, December 9,” she said. “It’s only on weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 9:00 to 2:30, and that’s the time that people can come in and volunteer their time to shop, to wrap gifts, to sort the gifts into the correct location, in the correct boxes for the families.

“That’s also the time that somebody could stop in if they wanted to pick up some information on somebody, and go and sponsor them and sponsor their Christmas morning. They can come in and see us at that point in time also. “

Those who want to ask for holiday assistance or help with the program should call Angie Keyser at 540-679-9862.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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