LAURINBURG — Avoiding the hassle of sliding down countless chimneys, the Scotland County chapter of the NAACP provided a one-stop gift extravaganza on Saturday for more than 300 children at its annual Christmas Wonderland event.
Billing helpers from the NAACP and Scotland County Sheriff’s Office as “Santa’s hired volunteers,” NAACP President Terence Williams invited children and their families to approach, in the order they arrived, several tables piled high with games and puzzles, dolls, toy cars, and other gifts.
“Look at the people,” said volunteer Cynthia Pankey by way of explaning her involvement with the event. “Sometimes we have to give back, so why not give back to the people who are in need? There are food stamp cuts, there are Medicaid cuts, there’s no jobs, there’s no money, people are hungry, people are sleeping in cars and they just don’t have. At one time I was there and I know how it is to have not.”
For more than 10 years running, the NAACP has organized Christmas Wonderland to provide at least one joyful experience for children who otherwise may not even have a Christmas tree, let alone any gifts to unwrap under it.
“It helps those that can’t get anything for their children, at least they can go back and say they got this toy,” said Lisa McLean, attending with son James, 6, and daughter Jalisa, 10. “She got markers and he got a little motorcycle. They love what they got.”
Each child in attendance left with at least one gift, in addition to soup, juice, and school supplies. A hot dog lunch was also provided for all.
“I got a baby doll because and I got a pencil and this notebook — I like dolls,” said Caniya Everett, 7.
Despite community support, this year’s Christmas Wonderland was diminished from previous events, which have drawn in excess of 500 children.
Christmas Wonderland was sponsored in partnership with the Laurinburg Police Department, the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, City Councilwoman Dee Hammond, former Scotland County Schools associate superintendent Dr. Susan Chase, Scotland County Schools assistant superintendents Pamela Baldwin, Cory Satterfield and Larry Johnson, Campbell’s Soup, the Scotland County Civic League, Nazareth Missionary Baptist Church, the Scotland County Ministerial Alliance and Lumbee River Electric Membership Cooperative.
“It’s a cool experience to give back to the community, it’s good to see kids out here and happy families,” said volunteer Lavonddrick Pegues. “It might not be much, but it’s the thought that counts.”