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Stocking up at the Christmas Station

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New facility will help program expand

By Tom Wilmoth

    The Bedford Community Christmas Station has a new home—and this time it's permanent.

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    Earl Childers, a well-known Bedford businessman, has donated a building to the organization to honor the memory of his late wife, Ethel Young Childers, who was very supportive of the Christmas Station. 
    Bedford Community Christmas Station will now be located at 510 Blue Ridge Avenue in Bedford.  A dedication ceremony for the building will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 2  p.m.  The date of December 11 was chosen because it is the birthday of Ethel Childers and the day before families will be served at the Christmas Station.
    Christmas Station Board President Karen Hughes said the board was very grateful for the previous location that had been provided, but said the new home will allow for expansion of both space and programs.
    "We've been busy getting set up and getting ready," Hughes said of the volunteer effort that is edging close to its busiest time of the year.
    With the new location, Hughes said the Station will be able to expand its services to include passing out food boxes, as well as adding more special programs such as a back-to-school effort.
    The new location, located right off Blue Ridge Avenue, provides a highly-visible location for the organization. Other services the Christmas Station has worked with includes providing coats to anyone who needs it, and helping the homeless, victims of domestic violence or those who have been displaced by fires or other emergencies.
    The goal is to increase the presence of the program.
    Hughes said Childers has been a long-time supporter of the program.
    The official name of the new facility will be the Ethel Young Childers Bedford Community Christmas Station Building. “This was a program she felt very strongly about,” Hughes said of Ethel Childers.
    The Christmas Station provides help to anyone in Bedford County who needs help and coordinates services with other programs in the county including Lake Christian Ministries and the Agape Center, both located in Moneta.
    “We compare lists to make sure we're not serving the same families,” Hughes said.
    Last year the Christmas Station served 322 families, representing more than 1,100 people. So far this year 314 families have signed up for help and volunteers are continuing to take applications. Actual shopping by the families will take place Dec. 12-14. Each family receives a ticket for their shopping appointment.
    Families who participate in the Christmas Station program receive points to purchase items in the various areas—clothing, housewares, toys and the teen department, depending on each family's needs. New this year is a seniors department for seniors and disabled adults. Families also receive a box of food and have access to choose a coat.
    The Christmas Station receives various donations from churches, schools, clubs and individuals throughout the year and collects financial donations to make purchases to fit wish lists they collect from the families. Fundraisers are also held throughout the year to help raise funds.
    “It's a year-long effort,” Hughes said.
    This is the eighth year the Bedford Community Christmas Station will be providing Christmas gifts and items for area families. That first year it served 262 families and it has seen a steady growth rate of 10 percent each year.
    And there are always plenty of volunteers. Last year almost 170 volunteers helped the program run smoothly. Churches, youth groups and businesses send groups of volunteers to help out.
    “We're always looking for more volunteers,” Hughes added. “And we're always happy to take donations.”
    With the new building, the facility is expected to be open at least two days a week for service; that could expand depending upon demand, she said. “We'll just play that by ear.”
    Hughes added that a number of area businesses have stepped up to help get the building ready.
    And once the Christmas season is over? “We do have a to-do list,” Hughes said of projects that will need to be completed.
    The public is welcome to attend the new building's dedication event.  For more information about Bedford Community Christmas Station, call 540 492-0382 or visit the website at www.bedfordchristmas.com.