Mobile Energizers members played Santa’s elves Nov. 13, shopping for students at the Southwest Regional School for the Deaf and Blind in Mobile.
The six Alabama Power retirees scoured the toy aisles at Target at Shoppes at Bel Air Mall in Mobile, searching for the perfect toy for each child. During the school’s Dec. 12 Christmas party, about 65 sight- and hearing-impaired children will receive gifts, thanks to the Mobile Energizers.
Everyone at the school – students and staff – looks forward to the party every year, said Principal Mandy Sullivan. The school’s atmosphere nearly crackles with excitement.
“The children are so happy. It’s almost the feeling of Christmas morning,” said Sullivan, who has served two years as principal of the Southwest Regional School for the Deaf and Blind. “Probably some of our students don’t get a lot of gifts at home, so this really means a lot.”
On the morning of the party, the teachers treat Energizer volunteers to a potluck breakfast. Every teacher brings a covered dish, casserole or donuts. After breakfast, students assemble in the gym, where Santa calls each child – one by one – to pick up their gift.
“No one opens a gift until every child has one,” Sullivan said. “We count down, and everyone opens their gift at the same time. Even the three- and four-year olds know, and even the new students understand this. It’s really neat to see.”
Each teacher creates a wish list for their class after talking with every student about what they want, which is provided to the Mobile Energizer shoppers.
“The children get the gift specified by their teacher,” Sullivan said. “About 99 percent of the time, the Energizers get the exact toy the child asked for. They do an amazing job.”
It takes some planning to shop for so many children, said longtime Mobile Energizer Mary Jo Hrabe, who serves as secretary. The Energizers organization is made up of retirees of Alabama Power, Southern Nuclear and Southern Company Services in Alabama.
Hrabe and her husband, Chuck, president of the Mobile Energizers, joined Carolyn Feltus, Joe Hall, Cathy Odom and Carol Mitchell in shopping from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Later, they met at Alabama Power’s West Mobile Office, where the group spent four hours wrapping the presents. Mary Jo Hrabe made special labels for the presents. Girl’s gifts were packaged in red and boy’s presents in green, for easy distribution by Santa.
“This is an event we’ve done for 12 years, and we really enjoy it,” Hrabe said. “The children are very orderly, they’re so good.
“Seeing them open their gifts brings tears to our eyes,” she said. “The Southwest Regional School for the Deaf and Blind is one of the 501(c)(3) agencies we’ve donated to each year, and it’s so worth it.”
The Mobile Energizers delivered the gifts to the school Nov. 16 for safekeeping before the party, which is always held the week before school lets out for the holidays, she said.