(Editor’s Note: Special needs students from Abilene and Cooper high schools are selling handmade wooden Christmas trees that are perfect to set in front of the house. They are made of wooden slats and some are painted for a Christmas look. Proceeds go to a trip for the students next spring to a Texas Rangers baseball game. To see the trees or to purchase one, call 691-1000 and ask for Arlieta Jones, supervisor of the program.)

By Loretta Fulton

In the late 1970s, yes 40 years ago, when I was the regional news editor at the Abilene Reporter-News, I made a trip to Anson for some kind of fair that featured a variety of handmade goods in the crafts section.

I don’t remember if it was the fall Jones County Fair or something held closer to Christmas. But I do remember buying a green and red quilted door hanging in the shape of a Christmas tree. Solid red inverted triangular patterns were sewed over a green patterned background.

That one is easy to remember because I see it every year around the first of December when I get out the Christmas decorations.

I see it now hanging on the inside of the front door. I like it so much that I count it among my favorite Christmas items, along with handmade cookie dough ornaments a friend made about the same time and the family ornaments and trinkets that I grew up with.

The reason this handmade quilted Christmas tree door hanging is so special to me is that it was a favorite of a friend who died in 2001. From the first time he saw that door hanging until the last Christmas before his death, he commented on the coziness of it, the sense of comfort it brought to the room.  

It was the symbol of a homespun Christmas, the best kind there is. And that is why I am still drawn to Christmas fairs and stores like the one hosted each year by members of Grace United Methodist Church.

Proceeds from this year’s store, which was open only one day, Dec. 9, went to the free lunch the church serves every Thursday to anyone who’s hungry.

Rows of tables were filled with handmade items–crocheted afghans, pot holders, and drink holders, door and wall hangings, tree ornaments, wreaths and a table filled with cakes, pies, cookies, and brownies.

Outside, as shoppers approached the church, teachers with the school district’s program for students with special needs were hoping to sell a few wooden Christmas trees made by the students. Proceeds from that sale went toward a trip next spring to a Texas Rangers baseball game.

The trees were made of slats cut in lengths to form a pyramid shape, resembling a Christmas tree, when fixed to a center pole. Some of the trees were painted, others left natural. All were made with love.

“They pretty much did all of it,” Janette Riddle said proudly.

She showed the students, from Abilene and Cooper high schools, how to saw the slats, angling the ends, and how to drill holes to screw them into the pole.

“We drew the lines and they cut ‘em,” said another of the adult workers, Marcie Taylor.

Inside the church, “church ladies” were answering questions about the handmade goods in the store and packing purchased items into bags.

There were tables with crocheted afghans, hot pads, and drink holders, wreaths, door and wall hangings, scarves, decorative items of all sorts and one table filled with cakes, pies, candies, and brownies.

It would be hard for most of us to choose from among all those tempting baked goods and beautiful decorations. But, there are a few favorites.

“Baked goods and candies are Number 1,” said Naomi Harrison, longtime secretary at Grace UMC. She personally made fruit bread and jellies to donate.

Alviline Tatum contributed rows of beautifully crocheted afghans, hot pads, and drink holders. A friend, Issie Miller, helped Tatum with the taking the money and making change.

Miller’s contributions were handmade wreaths and other decorative items including a wall hanging with a Santa’s hat hanging on one corner and the words, “Believe” in the middle.

You never know what’s going to sell from year to year, Miller said, and that’s why she makes a variety of decorations. What’s popular one year may not be popular the next. Whatever is sold at the Grace United Methodist store and others like it finds a place in a home and in a heart.

“Things you buy at an event like this,” Miller said, “just are better than store-bought.”

Yes, a homespun Christmas is the best Christmas of all.


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