By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published Dec. 16, 2009

For many Americans, the holiday season is a time of giving, sharing and love.

For those less fortunate, this season can be a trying time where children miss out on the joy of waking up Christmas morning to presents underneath the tree.

“Patrick has been through a lot this year,” Stephanie Meadows said about her 6-year-old son. “We were involved in a car wreck and our house burnt.”

The Meadows were at the annual Children’s Shopping Trip at Kmart in Dickson on Saturday. The event is sponsored by Worldcolor of Dickson.

Worldcolor is just one of several Dickson County companies and organizations that every year – some, all year – assist those in need during the holidays.

Dale Spicer, Dickson County Help Center director, said he’s seeing about 18 to 20 families a day walk through the Help Center’s doors looking for assistance.

“That’s definitely higher than in past years,” Spicer said. “The increase in requests for help is very representative of the increase in the number of people being laid off.”

Worldcolor, formerly Quebecor Printing, took over the 29-year-old annual shopping spree from the now defunct Dickson Jaycees about 20 years ago.

“It’s something that the company wants to do for the kids who need a little help around the holidays,” said Steve Heffler, vice president/general manager of Worldcolor. “All of the employees enjoy doing it. It’s nice to shop with the kids, and the kids are appreciative.”

Worldcolor’s Community Relations committee organizes the event and collects contributions from its employees, which the company matches, while soliciting money from local businesses and other donors. The total collected this year allowed 51 children, selected by the local Department of Children’s Services, to spend $75, with a volunteer chaperon, at Kmart.

“This year has surprisingly been a pretty good year for donations,” said Peggy Fielder, a retired Worldcolor employee and event coordinator. “It’s not as good as it used to be. I have had years where we’ve had enough money to ask for 75 names, but these days if we get enough to ask for 45 to 50 children we think we’ve had a good year.”

Forty-six children attended this year’s spending spree, including Patrick Meadows.

“This meant a lot to us,” said Stephanie Meadows. “He was so excited to do this. I don’t even know how to describe it.”

Meadows had been unemployed for a period of time, in addition to the disasters that struck her household. She had tried reaching out to other programs and organizations for help with Christmas gifts, but hadn’t had any luck until someone from Patrick’s school, Dickson Elementary, suggested she look into Worldcolor’s shopping trip.

“I was actually shocked when we got a call for this,” Meadows said. “I have two older children and they understand the situation, but Patrick’s at the age where Christmas means everything to him.”

Patrick and his fellow shoppers crowded in front of Kmart, which has always hosted the event, at 6:45 a.m. Saturday, an hour and 15 minutes before it normally opens, and it didn’t take long for the youngsters to spend their money.

About 50 chaperons, consisting of volunteers from local churches along with Worldcolor employees and their families and friends, helped the children manage their budget.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to help children who aren’t going to be as fortunate as a lot of us,” explained Donna Taylor, who chaperoned along with her husband. “And it’s hard. You want them to have everything.”

Patrick bought his mom a mop and frying pan, which tickled his mother. She jokingly said the gift implied he wanted her to cook and clean more. Patrick also chose a Dale Earnhardt Jr. collectible for his dad; a calendar for his 15-year-old sister; a talking parrot for his 17-year-old brother; and a batman car for himself.

“He came into the house and started cheering, ‘Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!’ and went around waking everyone up and giving them their gifts,” said Meadows. “It was cute.”