Debbie Vaughn, who teaches English as a Second Language for the Lebanon Special School District, is a woman on a mission.
Her mission is to make sure ESL students in Lebanon schools and their families feel welcome and have the essentials needed to make it in their new homes.
"Right now, I'm in full bore Christmas mode," Vaughn said.
Once again this year, Vaughn will have the International Fellowship Dinner on Dec. 18 to allow families from the school district to bring in their best dishes for a potluck extravaganza. The event will also be a chance for those families, some of whom don't speak a lot of English, to learn about how Christmas is celebrated in the United States, and ensure those students have a few presents.
The event will also be another opportunity for Vaughn and her band of volunteers to make sure these same students have warm clothes and coats for the winter.
"We're having the giveaway for the kids, dinner and the 'yard sale,'" Vaughn said. "I'm expecting about 300 people. It's going to be a big night."
Vaughn said ELS students from Winfree Bryant Middle School will also attend the event, which will be held at Byars-Dowdy Elementary School.
The families are in for a treat.
Beth Petty, who runs the LSSD's Family Resource Center, is also planning to help out the families.
"Beth will be giving out 50 food bags with beans, rice and tortillas," Vaughn said, adding that Petty is always ready to help her efforts.
Walmart helped out with recycle bags that Vaughn plans to fill with scarves, winter hats, gloves, school supplies and other essentials - including things most children here take for granted and don't need to ask for at Christmas.
"Socks are critical," Vaughn said. "Each child will have a bag to take home."
The highlight of the event will be the dinner, known for a variety of tasty dishes native to the families' home countries, and a delight to the American palette.
"It's potluck, so we never know what they'll bring," Vaughn said. "But we've never run out of food."
In October, Vaughn and the faculty at Byars-Dowdy Elementary School had a giveaway for the families of her ESL students that included warm clothes, coats, shoes and more. Surprising no one, the children zeroed in on the toys while the moms worried about acquiring warm clothes and coats.
At the first "yard sale give-away" Vaughn hoped to organize another such event before Christmas - mission accomplished. After the first event, Vaughn was still concerned that her ELS students didn't have enough warm coats to face January. Enter Pam Black.
"Pam Black has really taken this to heart," Vaughn said. "She has been running around and collected 160 coats."
Even with dedicated people like Black, more is still needed. Vaughn is still collecting hats, scarves, gloves, school supplies, coats and anything else these kids will need to stay warm. If you would like to live the meaning of Christmas and help out these neighbors in need, Vaughn said she will welcome your support. Call her at 615-830-6728 and she will make arrangements to pick up donations, or they can be taken to Byars-Dowdy.
She said the dinner is always a success, and is optimistically predicting even more success this year.
"I think this will year it will be even bigger," Vaughn said.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.