Warm Thought

Published 11:33 am Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Take a simple Christmas tree and decorate it in the most utilitarian way with loads of mittens, scarves, wooly and warm hats and socks and you have a holiday tradition that’s a part of the Briggs Lawrence Libraries this time of year.

It’s the mitten tree and every branch of the library put one up soon after Thanksgiving with the request for its patrons to bring in the warm pieces of apparel during the first two weeks of December.

Then these goodies will be distributed to churches, schools and community missions in the county who have clothes closets and food pantries for those in need.

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The libraries in the eastern end of the county — Proctorville and Chesapeake — reported a good response to this year’s mitten tree campaign, which was also coupled with a canned or non-perishable food item drive.

“We had a really good amount of (mittens),” Martha Martin, assistant manager at the Chesapeake branch, said. “We had one lady who donated a whole bagful and scarves, some of them she made herself. I know people are in need.”

The proceeds from the Chesapeake drive will go to the Chesapeake Community Center, the headquarters of a food pantry and clothes closet managed by the Community Mission Organization, a group of 15 Chesapeake churches that help the needy.

“They give it away free,” Martin said. “That is what we like about it. People need it and get it for nothing. It is a good place up there.”

The Proctorville branch reported a comparable response this year.

“We got a bunch of mittens, hats, gloves, scarves and socks,” Susan Mannon, manager at the Proctorville branch, said. “We did well on the gloves. They go to the schools and the canned goods to local food banks at the churches.”

Part of the lure of participating in the mitten tree project is that patrons can have up to $5.00 worth of fines forgiven for each item they bring in.

“It helps the community and helps our patrons as well,” Mannon said. “They get their fines waived. But we have a lot of patrons who don’t owe anything. They just want to help.”

The mitten tree project was started at least 20 years ago by the library and has been a continuous success over the years.

“It is a way to provide another avenue to give and at the same time it provides an opportunity for our patrons to get some fines off their cards,” Joe Jenkins, director of the library, said. “In this environment it is the only time we have an amnesty period. We only do it for the Christmas season. We do well every year.”