Chamber of Commerce of Walker County Junior Ambassadors make it their mission every year to spread Christmas cheer.
This year Junior Ambassadors collected canned goods for St. Cecilia Catholic Church's food pantry and donated items for seniors on the SouthernCare New Beacon Hospice angel tree.
"These kids do a tremendous amount of community service, and they really understand the process of it all," Chamber President Linda Lewis said of the 50 Junior Ambassadors at a meeting in early December. "The Chamber is thrilled that we have this program, and it just grows every year. It's great."
Students from each high school in Walker County make up Junior Ambassadors.
In addition to Christmas charitable donations, Junior Ambassadors volunteered at the annual Pets on Parade event that raises money for spay/neuter efforts in Walker County. They also took phone calls for the Daily Mountain Eagle Shoe Fund that helps provide shoes for children in need.
In 2020, the ambassadors will collect snacks for the Walker County Community Action Agency's after-school program and volunteer for Groundhog Job Shadow day, among other service projects.
"It's eye-opening to see how much need is out there," Jasper High School junior Sam Martin said. "As much as we collect, you know that they need more. There's always going to be a need."
"It's special to be around other people that want to do stuff like this and contribute to the county," Nic Bankston, a junior at Curry High School, said.
All of the students said being part of Junior Ambassadors has taught them many life lessons.
"It has taught me to be a leader and get out of my comfort zone and help others that are less fortunate," Oakman High School junior Julian Bray said.
"I've enjoyed helping and being able to give back to the community," Ja'Mya Harris, a Dora High School senior, added.
Carbon Hill senior Hannah Dutton said, "I definitely like helping out with anything, especially helping people around here that need help because I want to make this place better so more people will want to come here."
Steve Tubbs of SouthernCare New Beacon Hospice thanked the Junior Ambassadors for their assistance in helping to make sure area seniors aren't forgotten this Christmas. He said all donations for their angel tree will be given to residents at nursing homes and senior living facilities in Walker County.
"I'm usually the one that dresses up like Santa Claus or works with the one that dresses up like Santa Claus and goes to the nursing homes. I see these 80-, 90-, 100-year-old individuals that get this gift for Christmas, and I see that smile. All I can say is it's amazing, and what y'all do helps make that happen," Tubbs said. "It's surprising to know how many senior adults that are in this town alone that either have no family or they're the last one left of their family — or their family lives in another state. We're their family."
"You guys are giving back to your community, and it's a very humbling experience," Lewis told the ambassadors.