Home for the Holidays

Allison Westlake

Lake residents give back, share the spirit of the season

It’s the best time of the year with holiday lights aglow, festive get-togethers and time spent with loved ones. It is also a time for giving, and lake communities are no exception. From charity bass tournaments to holiday card sales and community events, lake residents across the state are giving back and sharing the spirit of the season.

Children’s Harbor

Since 1990, Children’s Harbor has been connecting children who have long-term serious illnesses and their families with camping and adventure services at its campus on Lake Martin. During the holidays, Children’s Harbor continues to connect people through its one-of-a-kind Christmas card sale.

Each year, the group selects art from local artists that carries the spirit of Christmas to be featured on the cards. Cards are sold in packs of 10 for $15 and have been a holiday tradition for 15 years. Each card is personalized and informs recipients that a donation has been made to Children’s Harbor in their honor.

This year’s card features art by Birmingham artist Lee Wilson. The card sales generate about $15,000 annually and help support the programs and camps hosted at Children’s Harbor throughout the year.

“It’s a special way for us here at Children’s Harbor to tell our story by sharing the age-old tradition of sending greetings to friends and family through Christmas cards,” says Tammy Williams, community relations director.

E.C. Gaston Bass Tournament

The cold fall morning doesn’t bother Justin Bailey, president of the E.C. Gaston Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO), as he helps set up the organization’s sixth annual bass tournament on Lay Lake. The E.C. Gaston Steam Plant mechanic looks forward to this event each year.

“We host a bass tournament each year, and it’s always a good turnout from the community,” Bailey says.

Proceeds from the bass tournament are used for the chapter’s annual Christmas Wish project, where volunteers raise money to shop for needy children in the community.

“It’s important to us that children in the area get to have a Christmas,” says Karen White, an APSO member and project coordinator for the tournament.

This year, the chapter is shopping for 250 children in surrounding communities and will deliver the gifts just in time for Christmas.

The Woman’s Club of Gadsden Holiday Tour of Homes

Earlier this month, the Woman’s Club of Gadsden hosted a Holiday Tour of Homes. The tour featured five private homes in Gadsden and along the shores of Neely Henry Lake, in addition to the Gadsden Museum of Art and the Woman’s Club.

“The money raised from the tour goes to our annual scholarship fund,” says Denise Floyd of the Woman’s Club.

Each year’s tour is different, offering a variety of homes, décor ideas and a chance for people in the community to mix and mingle during the holidays. Women from the organization work hard each year to provide the community with another holiday tradition.

Christmas Boat Parades

What would holidays on the lake be without Christmas boat parades?

Each year on the second Saturday of December, the annual Lay Lake Christmas Boat Parade illuminates the lake with holiday lights and decorations. This is the boat parade’s 19th year.

One of its founders, Joe Sullivan, says his children, like many in the community, haven’t seen a Christmas without the popular parade. More than a family event, Sullivan sees the parade as a way to give back to the Lay Lake community.

“This started out as a few people wanting to decorate their boats for Christmas years ago and has turned into a tradition for everyone on the lake,” Sullivan says.

Now, the Lay Lake Home Owners Boat Owners group pitches in as well, making sure this beloved holiday tradition continues each year.

On Smith Lake, Eddie Hand, publisher of Smith Lake Living Magazine, and organizations and businesses will host their 10th annual Santa on Smith Lake event and boat parade. The event at the Smith Lake RV Park is open to the public, free of charge.

“It’s a great family event,” Hand says. “We do this for the kids in the community; it really is a lot of fun.”

The afternoon-long event features a golf cart parade, Christmas caroling, a live nativity with children from area churches, a visit from Santa and ends with a boat parade at dusk.

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