On Christmas morning in Sylacauga and surrounding areas, there will be joyous laughter from 180 happy children served by the Plant E.C. Gaston Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO).
Gaston APSO members spent several hours on Dec. 9 and Dec. 12 shopping for less fortunate children in their communities. More than 20 Plant Gaston employees scoured toy and clothing aisles of Walmart in Sylacauga, seeking the perfect gift.
Gaston APSO bought presents for families represented by Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind; the Angel Tree from Grace Baptist Church in Childersburg; the Boy’s Club Inc. of Sylacauga; and Departments of Human Resources for Chilton, Shelby, St. Clair and Talladega counties.
Several Gaston APSO board members served as Santa’s elves, selecting presents and checking prices twice. More so, each gift was selected with love and care from Gaston APSO’s shopping team, who considered what children would most enjoy.
“We can buy more if all of us look for good deals,” said Gaston APSO President Jodi Webb, who has 9-year-old and 11-year-old children.
Melissa Williamson’s shopping cart was full to the brim, the handlebars of a boy’s bike peeking over the edge. Williamson, Gaston APSO’s treasurer through 2021, loves indulging children’s wish lists.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” said Williamson, a buyer for Generation.
Gaston Administrative Support Specialist Teresa Mims shopped with her 10-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, a student at Vincent Elementary School.
“I want to start Chloe off right, knowing the importance of helping others,” Mims said. “We want to bless some children who wouldn’t receive anything for Christmas.”
The store provided Gaston APSO a dedicated checkout line to purchase gifts, where several employees helped bag the toys for transport to Boy’s Club Inc., about 2 miles away.
For Jody Brooks, helping less fortunate children and their families have happier holidays is a family affair.
“I’ve got 32 families with 60 kids,” said Brooks, who has led the Boy’s Club of Sylacauga for the past 15 years. “I pick kids from my Boy’s Club who need help – I know every one of them and have been in every one’s home.
“I know if families don’t have a stove in their house to cook a meal. There’s no use in delivering a turkey to a family who doesn’t have an oven,” Brooks said. “And there’s no use in buying a child a bicycle if they don’t have room. I know some grandparents who are raising their grandson in a one-bedroom house. I know every child and know their needs, and what they can really use.”
The families give Brooks a Christmas list with wishes and needs. He said the gym at the Boy’s Club will be packed with toys that parents will pick up before Christmas.
“I give the lists to people in the community who want to adopt kids for Christmas,” he said. “The kids never know that mom or dad didn’t buy the gifts. My dad was the Boy’s Club director for 46 years. I grew up with this here, seeing my dad do this for so many years. The impact on kid’s lives is unforgettable.
“We have some families where there’s not a lot of male influence,” Brooks said. “The kids are so thankful for our guidance. I’m on the third generation of kids now. Many of them come back years later and they tell us how much of a difference we made in their lives. They tell us, ‘If it wasn’t for the Boy’s Club, there’s no telling where I’d be.’”
Brooks said that Gaston APSO members are making a difference in the outcomes for Sylacauga children.
“I am so thankful to Alabama Power and Gaston APSO,” Brooks said.