The Wilson County Civic League's annual Christmas party at the Market Street Community Center drew a crowd Thursday evening despite an extreme drop in temperatures.
Leslyne Watkins headed up the event, and she was busy as a bee getting everything ready for the nativity scene.
"We have one shepherd who has car trouble," she said with a laugh. "This is the fifth year we've done the nativity scene, and Satan and I have been at war all day."
The event featured arts and crafts and musical chairs for the children, refreshments and Bishop Belita McMurray Fite of Heaven's View Baptist Church reading the story of the birth of Christ as told in the second chapter of Luke in the Bible. The highlight for the children was the distribution of all the toys donated by Cracker Barrel.
"Cracker Barrel really came through," Watkins said as she looked into the goody bags of fruit, nuts and toys the Lebanon-based company also donated for the children to take home at the end of the night.
As the children and their parents came in out of the cold wind, they got their raffle number to allow them to enter the toy room where they got to select a toy for each child in the family. Then it was off to the arts and crafts room to make tinsel candy canes and glue decorations on cutout trees and stockings under the direction of Evelyn McGregor, a retired teacher who works for the civic leagues' tutoring program.
Laughter could be heard throughout the building from down the hall where a rousing game of musical chairs had children literally hopping.
Most of the adults were seated in the space now used for services by the Lebanon Church of God. The church burned in November, but has been able to keep its congregation together by using the community center.
All the children left the event with a full tummy, a new gift and exhausted from all the fun and games. Watkins said for one family at the event, the Civic League party really made their Christmas.
"One man and woman with four children came to the party," Watkins said afterwards. "They said the stuff they got here was all they would have for Christmas. We were able to give them a few extra toys."
She said most don't appreciate how lucky they are to be able to provide their children Christmas toys, because some parents cannot.
"Some people don't really understand there are people out there in that position," Watkins said, adding she was happy that so many families showed up for the event.
"If it hadn't been so cold and windy there would have been an even bigger turnout," she said.
The Wilson County Civic League provides tutoring for children, activities for seniors and support for the entire community. If you would like to contribute to the league's efforts, contact Watkins at the community center at 321 East Market St. in Lebanon or call 615-449-0719.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.