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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Heart Warming: Christmas Caroling in the Riverview Neighborhood


"Deck the streets with songs, by jolly.. fah, la, la, la la.... la, la, la la."

Not quite the words to the famed Christmas song, but when the New Vision Youth Kids sing it, it's wonderful.

The 7th annual New Vision Christmas Caroling event in the evening hours of Monday, December 20, 2010, left the streets of Riverview and South Central ringing with the sounds of the season.  The kids also left their neighbors with the spirit of the true meaning of Christmas.

AT RIGHT:  Sierra Jones and Kiara King sing carols.

"It's one blessing we enjoy giving back to the community every year," says New Vision Youth Director Johnnie Mae Swagerty, "to show them that we can do this for them."

17 kids, led by Swagerty;   Jeannie Hodges with South Central Kingsport Weed & Seed;  parent-chaperone Veronica Camp;  Chassie Smiley, administrator of the V.O. Dobbins Complex; and Kingsport Parks & Recreation program coordinator Jason Wilburn, kept tune despite the chilly temperatures, to bring a little Christmas cheer to many older neighborhood residents, some of whom could not make it to the door, and others who welcomed them with open arms.

Among the visits:  "Mrs. Ethel Ruth Russell came to the door and stood outside, listening to the kids singing.  She's always been out there on the porch for us, in all the years we've been doing this, she has come out to support us," says Swagerty.  "Mrs. Mary Skaggs also came to the door.. she really enjoys hearing the kids singing every year.. We stopped by to see Chi Chi (Kathryn) White.. she came to the door to thank them.  Jennie Hankins came to the door, along with her daughter Michelle and granddaughter Arianna.. so did Sissy Graves.   In Riverview, we went by and sang to Mrs. Ford, although she couldn't come to the door, bless her heart.  She still heard us, though.  Mrs. Pearl Henry also couldn't come to the door, but the kids sang good and loud for her, too.  We also sang to Mrs. Beulah Banner, Mrs. Mamie Gillenwater, Mrs. Betsy Pierce and Mrs. Joanna King..she's a new resident there at Riverview Place."

"We stopped by Mrs. Barbara Bristol's house," she says, "and she has a Christmas tree decorated in every room.  She invited us all in and her house just looked so beautiful.  We also sang to Mrs. Ollie Perry, who enjoyed it, too.  'Punkin' Carpenter came out and gave the singers peppermint sticks to help their little voices, which was so nice.  Jean Ann and Terry Moore and their grandson came out on Dale Street, and one of our New Vision mentors, Emanuel Amarko, a brand new U.S. citizen from Nigeria, came out and listened to the kids"

"It gave us all a good feeling," Swagerty says, "that the kids got to sing Christmas carols on the tour bus in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg this weekend looking at the fantasy lights.  They got a lot of practice.  We wanted to sing to the sick and shut-in, because it's hard for them to get out and for some, to even come to the door.  We wanted to visit the seniors who can't get out much."

The Christmas caroling event is dedicated to a special Riverview resident who loved it very much.

"We sing the Christmas carols in memory of Mrs. Julia Evans," says Swagerty.  "She always told me 'Johnnie Mae,' when she'd come to the door, 'do not stop this.  We always went caroling when we were little.  You keep this going.. do it for me and for the community.'  I remember one year, she came out and put a jacket on, and stayed out a long time listening to the kids.  She always got a joy out of doing that.  We do this in her memory."

The caroling door-to-door capped off several days of Christmas activities for the New Vision Youth kids.  In addition to the Sevier County trip on Saturday, the kids went to the Lamplight Theater in Fall Branch to the play "The Candy Maker's Dream."

All that's left now, is for Santa and his reindeer to make their annual visit to the boys and girls, with lots of presents and good cheer.  Swagerty says, that's icing on the holiday cake for the kids.

"We wish everybody a Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year."