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Getting a jump on Christmas charitable pursuits

July Wednesday in Wintersville to promote luminaria sale for American Cancer Society, toy drive for fire department

GETTING IN THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT — Joel John gives attention to decorating a Christmas tree for Wednesday’s installment of Wednesdays in Wintersville from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. which will have a “Christmas in July” theme and include the sale of luminaria bags he is holding. They can be purchased in honor or in memory of loved ones and will be available for a $5 donation with proceeds to benefit the American Cancer Society as part of the second-annual “Lights in the Night” planned for Dec. 3. The luminaria will be available at Exquisite Creations by Joel at 735 Main St., Wintersville. Another charitable opportunity is for area residents to bring unwrapped toys to donate as part of a Christmas toy drive collection to aid an effort by Wintersville Fire and Rescue. -- Janice Kiaski

WINTERSVILLE — It may only be July, but the organizers of Wednesdays in Wintersville hope helping others this Christmas is on the minds, in the hearts and in the wallets of those attending this month’s community event.

Wednesday’s installment of Wednesdays in Wintersville from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. will have a “Christmas in July” theme, giving area residents a chance to kick-start and help make successful the second-annual “Lights in the Night” fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society.

Attendees will be invited to purchase a luminaria for a $5 donation at Exquisite Creations by Joel at 735 Main St., Wintersville, which is owned by Joel John.

John and Mary Decker, owner of Valley Wine Cellar at 825 Main St., Wintersville, are the founders of Wednesdays in Wintersville and organized the initial “Lights in the Night” held in 2021. Nearly 500 luminarias were sold and $2,500 raised for the ACS as a substitute fundraiser since John was unable to organize his usual annual Homes for Hope Tour ACS fundraiser for a second year, due to COVID-19 precautions.

The luminaria lined Main Street on Nov. 27 and attracted “a great turnout of people showing up to walk the street and admire them.”

This year the date will be Dec. 3 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the goal to line both sides of Main Street in Wintersville from Canton Road to Fernwood Road, according to John.

“They can be in honor of someone and or in memory of someone,” he said of the luminaria purchases with an option to allow students from the Jefferson County Christian School on hand Wednesday to decorate them if desired.

“We have volunteers who are going to come here to organize craft supplies, and they’re going to decorate the bags that we’ll use for the event,” John said. “We’ll store them until December when we light them.”

Wednesday’s event will include a toy drive to benefit one being conducted by Wintersville Fire and Rescue, according to John. Attendees are welcome to bring an unwrapped toy or game and leave it at the informational booth area at the event.

“The Wintersville Fire Department is doing a toy drive, and there’s an information booth here on the corner of Grove and Main streets for Wednesdays in Wintersville,” John explained. “This is where volunteers will be stationed.”

The two charitable opportunities foster a holiday-time atmosphere that complements the theme, according to the organizers.

“We’re definitely in the spirit of Christmas,” Decker said, encouraging attendees to “dress in your Christmas best.” Her business will feature a holiday spiced wine slushy.

In light of the “Christmas in July” theme, John said, “A lot of the vendors are encouraged to bring Christmas items to sell so if people want to get an early Christmas gift or something of that nature, they could do that, and I believe that we’re going to have a visit from Santa Claus.”

At 6 p.m. in John’s parking lot, there will be a community Christmas sing that will include the adult choir and handbell choir from St. Anthony’s Church in Follansbee.

“Our choir and the bell choir are going to come, and we’re going to have song sheets, and anybody’s welcome to participate. We’re going to sing a whole array of Christmas carols. That will be exciting. I think that will be fun,” John said.

“Wintersville United Methodist Church is doing a Christmas craft for the kids and here in my parking lot volunteers from the Jefferson County Christian School are going to come and bring art supplies so kids are encouraged to decorate the luminaries that we’ll use for the event in December.”

Themes for upcoming months vary.

Aug. 3’s Wednesday in Wintersville will be to the theme of “Dog Days of Summer” with a dog show and adoption event by the Jefferson County Humane Society.

“We’re encouraging people to bring their dogs, and the vendors will have some animal items,” he said

September is centered around anybody who is a first responder such as a nurse or EMS or in the military, according to John. “The Salute to Our Heroes” theme plays out Sept. 7. “We’re actually even going to have a motorcade parade of first responder vehicles.”

The Oct. 5 and final event for 2022 is to the theme “Thankful for You.” “We’re having a canned food drive to benefit Wintersville Good Neighbors and a pie baking contest,” he said.

“We’re trying to get the Wintersville community happy and excited again about things that are coming and just, you know, kind of liven it up,” Decker said of the events.

The two said they are hearing good feedback about Wednesdays in Wintersville.

“People are really excited, and I haven’t heard anything negative at all,” Decker said of Wednesdays in Wintersville that include craft vendors, food trucks, children’s games and activities, music and the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District-sponsored farmers market.

“It’s already just as successful as last year. People are so excited. They’re happy to get out and have something to do in town. They don’t have to travel far. I mean, the food trucks have been selling out. They sold out in May and June. The vendors are happy. All around it’s just a good event for our community,” Decker said.

“We have two policemen here, and they direct traffic and pedestrians crossing the street and are very accommodating,” she added.

“Safety is the No. 1 thing we focused on, and I definitely think that that’s nice that we have that,” added John.

“There’s such a wide range of participants, and I think that’s because we have activities and things that are devoted to people with a family, and the variety of crafters and vendors that we have I think is so wide that there’s really kind of something for everybody,” John said, adding, “I’m even surprised at the amount of stuff that’s presented.”

The turnout for the June event was “phenomenal,” he added. “The number of people that we saw, especially the age groups, was the thing that I was the most impressed with, because we have people with families, we have people who don’t have families, and there was a wide variety of participants. That was nice.”

Though it’s a spread-out venue, that has been a plus.

“One of the things we like is that it is spread out, especially coming out of the high point of COVID,” he continued. “I think not having everybody clustered together is making people feel a little bit more comfortable, because it is so spread out. And I believe that it’s better for the vendors because people aren’t standing in front of your booth. There’s definitely good access and better flow,” John said.

Having vendors sign up for the year instead of month to month gives organizers more time to give attention to other event details.

“We can focus on more important things such as entertainment and different things to bring people together. And as we learn through this year, we will have grown next year and have this wonderful system that is polished, a finished product,” John said.

“It’s a learning experience. This started off as 10 vendors, and we’re up to more than 75 now,” he added of its growth.

Wednesday’s pre-sale of luminaria will be the only one. The next sale for “Lights In the Night” will be on Small Business Saturday in November when they can be purchased at either John’s or Decker’s business.

The two will be recruiting volunteers to help with the event in December.

“We will need volunteers to help out, so if anybody’s interested in coming to put them out, we need people. And again, it’s just something else to have the community working together.”

For information, contact John at (740) 275-4380 or Decker at (740) 264-5100.

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