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CHAPTER 4: MAYFIELD & GRAVES COUNTY FAMILY RESOURCE CENTERS
MADE POSSIBLE BY INDEPENDENCE BANK

Sometimes the bells of Christmas don’t ring.

Sometimes, instead, they rev, roar and rumble.

Such is the case at the annual Pulling for Kids Truck and Tractor Pull held by the Graves County Truck and Tractor Pullers Association, where, for the past 11 years, truck and tractor pullers have suited up, started their engines and pulled all to serve one mission—to help low-income families in Graves County put toys, games, electronics and clothes under Christmas trees for their children.

In the past decade, the Pulling for Kids event has raised more than $300,000 to benefit the Community Christmas Connection, a joint effort sponsored by Family Resource and Youth Services Centers at Graves County Schools and Mayfield Independent Schools.

“If someone doesn’t help these kids, they won’t get anything for Christmas,” says Larry Wooley, an Association member and organizer of the event, which regularly draws crowds of more than 3,000 people.

“We’re real proud of what this has accomplished.”

And perhaps the Pulling for Kids event is not only the program’s biggest fundraiser, but maybe it’s also a fitting metaphor for its existence, since program officials say it began by community officials pulling together all resources into one cause to ensure that Santa left no child in Graves County waking up on Christmas morning without.

“When we began, a number of entities, including individuals, civic groups, and churches were interested in helping kids at Christmas, but there needed to be a streamlined approach,” recalls Tana Jones, coordinator of the Wingo Elementary Family Resource Center in Graves County.

“The Family Resource Centers were the group that connected every community and group to one entity.”

Program officials established the Community Christmas Connection as a way for families to earn assistance with providing Christmas gifts for their children.

“We don’t view it as a hand out,” says Lori Beyer, Coordinator of the F.A.C.E. Family Resource Center at Mayfield Elementary School, part of the Mayfield Independent School System.

“We view it as a hand up.”

Indeed, participating parents are asked to earn points through activities that benefit and enhance the success of their family and their children’s education.

“The program has evolved to empower parents and caregivers to be part of the process in providing for their children’s Christmas gifts,” says Tana.

Banking points throughout the year by participating in parenting classes, volunteering at their children’s school and attending parent teacher conferences and PTO meetings, parents are then able to turn those points into gifts while shopping at the Community Christmas Connection store in early December.

“When they come to shop, we treat them as customers and our store as a miniature Wal-Mart,” says Lori.

Each parent can earn up to 70 points per child throughout the year, which they can use to shop for Barbie dolls, books, electronics and sports equipment.

“They have to budget their points no different than you and I budget when we’re shopping for Christmas at Wal-Mart,” Lori says.

In the first decade of the program, both Tana and Lori have seen the needs increase. On average, the program serves nearly 400 families each year, most of which are low-income working families according to Lori. That amounts to between 700 and 900 children who receive the equivalent of $75 to $125 worth of gifts each year thanks to the goodness of others.

Filling this need every year requires a great deal of pulling together of time, of talents, of resources and of funds from a variety of sources.

To make up the Connection’s biggest fundraiser, Pulling for Kids, Larry and the Graves County Truck and Tractor Pullers Association seek help from a variety of sponsors and from more than 50 puller participants.

“If it wasn’t for the community’s support, we wouldn’t be able to do this for the kids,” Larry says.

“It’s a great feeling for me personally to see people in the community get behind this cause.”

And though it contributes approximately $30,000 per year to the program, the Pulling for Kids event still only covers one-third of the total cost, according to Tana. The rest is made up entirely from donations from civic organizations, churches, businesses and individuals–another way that the program serves to pull the community together.

“Community Christmas Connection is one of those events that visibly brings our community together,” says Tana.

“It’s disheartening to know that we have so many children and families in need, but, at least at this time of year, so many Mayfield and Graves County citizens want to be a small part of a bigger, positive impact.”

“The families that we are able to serve are grateful, and their children know the excitement of opening gifts at Christmas.”

“That’s why we do it.”

If you are interested in donating to the Community Christmas Connection, your assistance is always welcome.

“We never turn a donation away,” says Lori Beyer, F.A.C.E Family Resource Coordinator at Mayfield Elementary School.

To donate new or lightly used toys, or to give to the program fiscally, please contact any Family Resource Center in Mayfield or Graves County.

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