Local lore has it that decades ago a young boy named Jimmy Moore wrote a letter that asked why Santa never came to his house. That letter made its way to the Meadville Central Fire Department and moved local firefighters to start the Jimmy Moore Christmas Party for children who might not receive a gift for Christmas otherwise.
Over the years, other organizations put on the annual party, and now, Meadville City Councilwoman and Realtor Nancy Mangilo Bittner keeps the tradition going.
The annual Jimmy Moore party is at 11 a.m. Dec. 14 at St. Brigid Roman Catholic Church Social Hall, 383 Arch St. Children must have been pre-registered. Donations may be sent to Jimmy Moore Fund and mailed to Nancy Mangilo Bittner, 379 Cole Drive, Meadville, PA 16335.
Q. When and how did you get involved with the Jimmy Moore party?
A. My husband Bill is a lifetime Elk and when Sertoma Club was no longer able to do the Jimmy Moore party, the Elks took it over. My husband and I assisted during that time for a couple years. Then three years ago, the Elks could not sponsor the party and Meadville wanted to continue the Jimmy Moore party. A chairperson was needed, so I volunteered to do so.
Q. Why is the event something that is important to you?
A. Giving back to our community is important to me. Helping those less fortunate is always a good thing.
Q. What makes the event special to the community?
A. Our community has an opportunity to make a difference at Christmas through their generous donations.
Q. How much preparation does the event take and how much funding does it take?
A. Planning starts a few months ahead. About a month before the event I register the kids and line up the volunteers for the day of the event. Then it's about raising the money. It takes about $9,000 to $10,000 to buy gifts and supplies for the event. We try to serve those up to age 16 or 17 as some of the older children get left behind by other groups who have children’s parties. Gifts cannot be purchased until I know how much money we have to spend and therefore how many children we can help.
Q. How can people help or get involved?
A. We have many volunteers for the day of the event. We need additional volunteers to bake cookies, which we hand out the day of the event. Church groups or others who wish to donate hats, gloves and scarves may collect those ahead of time for the event. We are always grateful to the pizza shops in the area who donate some of the pizzas. And of course to Santa and Mrs. Claus for helping delivering the gifts.
Q. What would you like people to know about it?
A. In today’s world you have grandparents serving as guardians of their loved ones, or assisting their children with them; the overwhelming reward is of how grateful all recipients are of the community’s generosity at this time of year. For some it is the only gifts these children will see this Christmas season. It is so important to give back to others not as fortunate.