POWHATAN – The last two and a half months as the 2019 Powhatan Christmas Mother have been intriguing, rewarding, and, above all, busy.
Christmas Mother Betsy Blandford agreed last week to take a few moments from her packed scheduled to talk about … her packed schedule. That morning, Nov. 19, she had been finalizing the details of a cat and dog food drive Lyman Automotive had agreed to hold. From the interview, she was headed to the Powhatan Christmas Mother’s new permanent headquarters at Pocahontas Landmark Center, which she couldn’t stop gushing about.
“Last year shoppers would shop in one location, have to put the gifts in the car and drive them to another location for the wrappers to wrap and put in the boxes for the client families. I can’t imagine how you keep track of everything. Amazon has nothing on the Powhatan Christmas Mother organization as far as keeping track of the clients and their gifts. But the system clearly works very well,” she said with a grin.
With only a few weeks until Christmas, the local nonprofit is kicking it into high gear – balancing all of the regular pre-Christmas duties on top of several upcoming fundraisers and events.
At last count, the nonprofit had taken in 187 applications, many representing multiple people asking for help this Christmas, she said.
Blandford admitted some of her busyness is self-driven. The Powhatan Christmas Everyday Committee does so much behind the scenes to make the program work and she couldn’t be more grateful.
“Each committee has a chairperson. The committees know their jobs and do their jobs and they have been very generous in letting me participate at whatever level I want to,” Blandford said. “Nobody is waiting on me to spearhead anything. They do what they do. But as far as events and any kind of public speaking, meet and greets, or making connections, that is my job in this organization.”
Right now, the committee is trying to be seen in every way they can. They have upcoming fundraisers planned. Blandford set a $40,000 fundraising goal this year, and she said they were about halfway there as of the middle of November.
The Angel Trees with individuals’ needs are up at the Powhatan County Public Library, Essex Bank, and the Powhatan Walmart.
Blandford knew that instead of the traditional t-shirt or sweater each year’s Christmas Mother designs, she wanted to do something different. She ended up taking her daughter’s suggestion of making the nonprofit’s key item this year a bright red umbrella. On sale for $10, they can be picked up at New Horizons Bank, Essex Bank, Citizens Bank and Trust, Hobby Hills Bakery, and Fine Creek Provisions.
“I felt like there were other things we could sell and it might be time to try something new. People have received them very well,” she shared.
Blandford said she is feeling energized by the whole experience, especially the generosity of people in the county.
“When I went into it, I thought, oh boy I am going to have to go out and ask people for stuff. At one point in my life I was in sales so I knew how to do that. … But people have been calling me and asking can I do something for you?” she said.
The Christmas Mother program partnered with the Powhatan Fire and Rescue Department this year, asking clients who came to register if they needed a smoke alarm or batteries. Blandford said she gave the list to chief Phil Warner, and by Nov. 14, the department “had already contacted 80 percent of the list.”
As mentioned above, Lyman Automotive on New Dorset Road is holding a dog and cat food drive. Many of the Christmas Mother’s clients have pets, so the committee wants to help them as well.
Three Crosses Distilling Company held a fundraiser for the Christmas Mother on Oct. 24 that was well attended.
The upcoming Spaghetti with Santa fundraiser was a result of owner Jimmy Vlasidis calling and asking if Four Seasons Restaurant could help, Blandford said. The restaurant, located at 3867 Old Buckingham Road, will hold the fundraiser from 4 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2. The cost is $10 for adults online or $14 at the door; ages 5 to 10 are $7 online or $10 at the door, and ages 4 and under eat free with paying adult.
On Thursday, Dec. 12, people will have the chance to raise their glass in support of the Christmas Mother program with a fundraiser at Fine Creek Brewery. From 3 to 8 p.m., guests can explore new flavors creatively produced by expert brewers and proceeds will benefit the program.
Blandford continued the tradition of having a book and toy drive, which is being held through Dec. 16 at the Books-a-Million at Westchester Commons.
And to cap it all off, she is hoping for a great and busy day on Saturday, Dec. 14 to help wrap up the Christmas Mother season. Vendor booths will be set up on the Courthouse Green in the Village starting at 11 a.m. Santa Claus will also be there to greet boys and girls and take photos with them on the Courthouse steps. Proceeds from photo sales will benefit the Christmas Mother program.
At about 2 p.m., Santa will go and join the Powhatan Christmas Parade, which travels through the Village on Old Buckingham Road celebrating what makes Powhatan special, she said.
For more information about the Powhatan Christmas Mother program, visit www.powhatanchristmasmother.org.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.