After taking a year off because of COVID-19, Buckner Children and Family Services will return with its third Christmas market this holiday season.
Buckner is one of numerous Longview nonprofit organizations preparing to assist families during the holiday season through toy drives and other programs.
Executive Director Shelly Smith said the market is an opportunity for families who participate in Buckner’s programs to earn points that can be used as “income” to shop for their children.
The program replaces the former adopt-a-family initiative, in which people could volunteer to sponsor a Buckner family and purchase Christmas gifts for them.
The goal of the market is to empower families to work toward being able to choose gifts for their children as opposed to being handed pre-selected presents by a stranger, Smith said.
“It makes such a difference when you know that you earned the gifts that you’re getting and someone didn’t just give it to you,” she said.
Buckner held its Christmas market in 2018 and 2019, but the pandemic canceled this past year’s event. Instead, “curiosity boxes” were distributed to families, Smith said. The boxes contained age-appropriate gifts for children and faith-based and family-geared activities.
With COVID-19 cases declining in the Longview area, Buckner has decided to bring back the market, a move Smith said she and the families served by the agency are looking forward to.
“They love this program because … they get to have a choice. They get to have the experience of shopping for Christmas for their gifts,” Smith said. “It’s not filling out a wish list and not knowing what’s gonna show up at your doorstep. There’s nothing more exciting than shopping for your kids for Christmas, and they get to enjoy that experience, and it’s fun that they’ve earned it.”
Smith said this year, almost 230 families are participating in Buckner’s programs to accumulate Christmas spending “money.”
Buckner depends on community support and donations to put on the Christmas market. Donations have been minimal so far, with about 20 Christmas gifts delivered, Smith said.
“We are serving almost 230 families, so we definitely need those donations to start coming in,” Smith said.
Buckner is accepting gifts and monetary donations.
An Amazon wish list is available on Buckner’s website, and there are “many different options for people to be able to engage,” Smith said.
The deadline to donate is Dec. 6, with the Christmas market taking place Dec. 8, 9 and 10. The market is only open to participating families and not all Buckner clients, Smith said.
Donations can be dropped off 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Buckner offices, 1014 S. High St.
For information or to donate online, visit pages.buckner.org/christmas-in-longview .
Other Longview nonprofit organizations also have started seasonal assistance programs. Here’s how to help:
Hiway 80 Rescue Mission
Hiway 80 Rescue Mission’s annual toy drive will begin Monday.
Managing Executive Director Bryan Livingston said this past year, the mission provided toys to about 600 children in Longview and 200 in Tyler. Livingston said he anticipates around the same numbers this year.
“We usually try to give at least three to four toys to each child,” Livingston said.
Toys will be distributed to families through a drive-thru event Dec. 18. Livingston said he hopes to return to a gathering of clients next year.
While the mission traditionally has a large family Christmas meal with a live band and gift distribution, Livingston hopes to introduce a new event for 2022 festivities.
A Christmas carnival was initially planned for this year, but with the spike of COVID-19 earlier this year, Livingston said the idea was shelved.
The street behind the mission will be decorated with lights and Christmas decorations for the families who come to the drive-thru. Santa Claus will be present to assist in handing out presents.
Toy donations will be accepted through Dec. 15 at the mission, 3117 W. Marshal Ave.
For information, visit www.hiway80rm.org .
Toys for Tots
Donation boxes for the Longview Toys for Tots program are at several business, including Big 5 Tire & Auto, Eastman Chemical Co., Sysco Foods, and Walmart on Fourth Street and Loop 281.
Toys for Tots Coordinator Jerry Crutch said donations also can be dropped off at Tower Honda and the Marine Corps recruiting office on North Eastman Road.
Crutch said the organization served more than 500 children this past Christmas, and he hopes to see that number increase this year. Crutch said the Longview Toys For Toys program also helps children in Rusk, Harrison, Marion, Upshur and Camp counties.
For information about donations, call Crutch at (337) 501-2766 or email [email protected]
To donate online or for more information, go to longview-tx.toysfortots.org .
Havertys/Newgate Mission Angel Tree
Havertys Furniture and Newgate Mission again are teaming to provide an Angel Tree for the community.
Nan Gardner said this is the second year the tree will not have stockings with children’s names but instead will be decorated with business cards with the group’s website on it.
People can then visit the website to view and adopt a child’s wish list and-or provide a monetary donation.
Despite being retired from Havertys, Gardner’s husband, Jerry Gardner, still maintains the angel tree at the store, and the back warehouse is used to store donations.
Nan Gardner said the program expects to help about 480 children in Longview, Pine Tree and Spring Hill ISDs.
She said she and her husband will be at the Havertys warehouse beginning Dec. 13 to organize and collect donations. They will begin deliveries later that same week.
Angel trees will be at Havertys Furniture on the West Loop 281 and Tele’s Mexican Restaurant on Judson Road.
Donations will not be accepted past Dec. 13.
To view-adopt a wish list, donate or for more information, go to www.hnangeltree.org .
Salvation Army’s Angel Trees will be at Walmarts in Longview and Kilgore and at the Longview Mall.
A registry at walmart.com also allows people to view and order gifts that have been requested by children. The gifts are then shipped directly to the Salvation Army, where they are organized and later distributed.
The deadline to turn in gifts is Dec. 11, and they will be distributed to families Dec. 16 and 17.
For information on how to donate, call (903) 215-8463.
The Longview Police Department’s Blue Santa program will return for the second year with its Shop with a Cop program.
Longview police spokesman Brandon Thornton said this past year’s change from traditional toy donations was made because of COVID-19 precautions. Rather than accepting toys, the police department decided to accept monetary donations to purchase gift cards that would be used to shop for toys alongside the children receiving them.
Thornton said the program “worked out pretty good,” and a large number of police officers volunteered to participate and shop with children.
“Our officers had a great time,” Thornton said.
He added that members of the Texas Department of Public Safety as well as Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center employees also helped out.
The Blue Santa will hold a fundraiser in partnership with Telco Plus Credit Union and Bubba’s 33 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Dec. 1.
By mentioning the Blue Santa name, Bubba’s will donate 10% of each ticket sale to the program.
Blue Santa is only accepting monetary donations this year through drop-offs at the Longview Police Department. Cash and check donations will be accepted at the records window inside the department. Checks can be made out to the Blue Santa Project.
For information, visit tinyurl.com/longviewbluesanta .
Longview Fire Department Toy Drive
The Longview Fire Department will hold its Toy Drive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 11 in the parking lot of the Longview Mall.
Volunteers will be on hand to accept donations.
For information, visit www.facebook.com/LongviewTXFireDept .