After sending needy students to school well-equipped in the fall, Make a Child Smile hopes to give the same children a warm, joyful feeling at Christmas.

The nonprofit agency is now increasing its efforts to assist children ages 13 and older, since many other charities assist younger children during the holidays. 

Founder Tracy Stocks said, “It’s still important at 13 or 14 to have something for Christmas.”

MACS had a very successful back to school project, Stocks said, with 388 children receiving a week’s worth of clothes, new socks and underwear, hygiene items, school supplies and one item such as a new CD or clock radio.

“How we would like to see Christmas is continuing what we did with back to school,” Stocks said. “We would like to not only provide them with the simple pleasures of Christmas but get them pumped up and ready to go back to school. Presents for Christmas is real important, but the self esteem they can get out of having the items given to them is more important.”

Make a Child Smile has always provided hygiene items, school supplies and clothing, as well as toys and other gifts, in an effort to help low-income children feel good about themselves.

“Hygiene items are big. If you stink, how can you feel good about yourself?” Stocks said.

This year, however, MACS finds itself with a greater need and less funding than normal.

“The economy has hit us hard,” Stocks said. “Typically we have one fall fundraiser and do really well. We had one, and it failed. We repeated it, and it failed. We’re not dead because of it. It’s just getting to do what you want to do.”

She said the result of the lack of funding will be smaller gifts. In the past, each child has received a box filled with hygiene items, a Christmas gift, school supplies, and a blanket. This year, everyone on the list will get something, but not the large boxes of years past. A gift for a girl might be a nice sweater and some makeup, Stocks said.

Collections are still planned between now and Christmas Eve at a light display in the Catherine Place subdivision off East German Lane near East Oak Street. Christmas lights will be on display at the Brighter home at 1305 Tony Circle, and donations of hygiene items, toys or monetary contributions will be accepted from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday from now through Christmas Eve. On Saturday, Julie Johnson Photography will make pictures with Santa from 1 to 4 p.m. at 740 South Salem, Suite 109 and 110. Parents may purchase a 5 by 7 photograph for $5. For each purchase, 20 percent will be donated to Make a Child Smile.

Donations of items or monetary contributions may also be made at Stocks Mortgage at 1309 Main St. Stocks may be reached at tstocks@conwaycorp.net.

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)