Our halls have been decked, our wreaths have been hung and our lights are ready to shine. This week Lincoln Memorial University will kick off the holiday season with our annual Tree Lighting ceremony and Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra. In my six-year tenure with the University it has always been a personal highlight for me. And this year there is so much more to look forward to with two KSCO concerts and a holiday silent auction to benefit Women of Service.
Perhaps the most important thing we do at the Tree Lighting event is collect for Mission of Hope’s Christmas Campaign. Our shared mission of providing opportunity for the people of Appalachia brought us together. What has evolved is a true friendship where both organizations help each other.
The Mission of Hope was born in response to a local television station broadcast, WBIR’s broadcast “Hunger for Hope.” During this broadcast, TV news anchor Bill Williams informed viewers of the destitution and poverty in rural Appalachia by showing real life examples of children and families who suffered from physical hunger in the mountains, hills and hollows of southeastern Kentucky. One viewer took the story to heart and organized the first Mission of Hope collection in 1996. That year the organization distributed coats, clothes and toys to 150 children. The Mission of Hope movement has just grown from there.
Since 1996, the Mission of Hope has ministered to the people of various counties in Kentucky and Tennessee from which 80% of the region’s residents no longer have jobs in the coal mining industry. Last year because of the generosity of so many people, the Mission of Hope was able to help over 17,000 children and their families with food, clothes, toys and hygiene items. I have had the exceptional opportunity of joining MOH volunteers on two deliveries where they go into schools and give every student a Christmas present. The experience is truly awesome. To see the pure joy on the faces is amazing. I can still remember one boy who was clearly 10 or 11 picking out a baby toy from the table. When a volunteer asked about it the boy said he wanted to use his selection to make sure his little brother got a Christmas gift that year.
The MOH volunteers walk away each year with hundreds of stories like this. It is so enriching and really sets the tone for the season. If you are planning on coming out to LMU’s Christmas Festival don’t forget your donation for MOH! This will be the 15th year for the Christmas Campaign. The Christmas Campaign focuses on providing food, new clothing, hygiene items, books and new toys to needy families throughout rural Appalachia. For a complete list of items needed, please visit http://www.missionofhope.org.