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Longview nonprofit groups begin holiday assistance drives
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After taking a year off because of COVID-19, Buckner Children and Family Services will return with its third Christmas market this holiday season.

Buckner is one of numerous Longview nonprofit organizations preparing to assist families during the holiday season through toy drives and other programs.

Executive Director Shelly Smith said the market is an opportunity for families who participate in Buckner’s programs to earn points that can be used as “income” to shop for their children.

The program replaces the former adopt-a-family initiative, in which people could volunteer to sponsor a Buckner family and purchase Christmas gifts for them.

The goal of the market is to empower families to work toward being able to choose gifts for their children as opposed to being handed pre-selected presents by a stranger, Smith said.

“It makes such a difference when you know that you earned the gifts that you’re getting and someone didn’t just give it to you,” she said.

Buckner held its Christmas market in 2018 and 2019, but the pandemic canceled this past year’s event. Instead, “curiosity boxes” were distributed to families, Smith said. The boxes contained age-appropriate gifts for children and faith-based and family-geared activities.

With COVID-19 cases declining in the Longview area, Buckner has decided to bring back the market, a move Smith said she and the families served by the agency are looking forward to.

“They love this program because ... they get to have a choice. They get to have the experience of shopping for Christmas for their gifts,” Smith said. “It’s not filling out a wish list and not knowing what’s gonna show up at your doorstep. There’s nothing more exciting than shopping for your kids for Christmas, and they get to enjoy that experience, and it’s fun that they’ve earned it.”

Smith said this year, almost 230 families are participating in Buckner’s programs to accumulate Christmas spending “money.”

Buckner depends on community support and donations to put on the Christmas market. Donations have been minimal so far, with about 20 Christmas gifts delivered, Smith said.

“We are serving almost 230 families, so we definitely need those donations to start coming in,” Smith said.

Buckner is accepting gifts and monetary donations.

An Amazon wish list is available on Buckner’s website, and there are “many different options for people to be able to engage,” Smith said.

The deadline to donate is Dec. 6, with the Christmas market taking place Dec. 8, 9 and 10. The market is only open to participating families and not all Buckner clients, Smith said.

Donations can be dropped off 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Buckner offices, 1014 S. High St.

For information or to donate online, visit pages.buckner.org/christmas-in-longview .

Other Longview nonprofit organizations also have started seasonal assistance programs. Here’s how to help:

Hiway 80 Rescue MissionHiway 80 Rescue Mission’s annual toy drive will begin Monday.

Managing Executive Director Bryan Livingston said this past year, the mission provided toys to about 600 children in Longview and 200 in Tyler. Livingston said he anticipates around the same numbers this year.

“We usually try to give at least three to four toys to each child,” Livingston said.

Toys will be distributed to families through a drive-thru event Dec. 18. Livingston said he hopes to return to a gathering of clients next year.

While the mission traditionally has a large family Christmas meal with a live band and gift distribution, Livingston hopes to introduce a new event for 2022 festivities.

A Christmas carnival was initially planned for this year, but with the spike of COVID-19 earlier this year, Livingston said the idea was shelved.

The street behind the mission will be decorated with lights and Christmas decorations for the families who come to the drive-thru. Santa Claus will be present to assist in handing out presents.

Toy donations will be accepted through Dec. 15 at the mission, 3117 W. Marshal Ave.

For information, visit www.hiway80rm.org .

Toys for TotsDonation boxes for the Longview Toys for Tots program are at several business, including Big 5 Tire & Auto, Eastman Chemical Co., Sysco Foods, and Walmart on Fourth Street and Loop 281.

Toys for Tots Coordinator Jerry Crutch said donations also can be dropped off at Tower Honda and the Marine Corps recruiting office on North Eastman Road.

Crutch said the organization served more than 500 children this past Christmas, and he hopes to see that number increase this year. Crutch said the Longview Toys For Toys program also helps children in Rusk, Harrison, Marion, Upshur and Camp counties.

For information about donations, call Crutch at (337) 501-2766 or email jcrutch363@aol.com.

To donate online or for more information, go to longview-tx.toysfortots.org .

Havertys/Newgate Mission Angel TreeHavertys Furniture and Newgate Mission again are teaming to provide an Angel Tree for the community.

Nan Gardner said this is the second year the tree will not have stockings with children’s names but instead will be decorated with business cards with the group’s website on it.

People can then visit the website to view and adopt a child’s wish list and-or provide a monetary donation.

Despite being retired from Havertys, Gardner’s husband, Jerry Gardner, still maintains the angel tree at the store, and the back warehouse is used to store donations.

Nan Gardner said the program expects to help about 480 children in Longview, Pine Tree and Spring Hill ISDs.

She said she and her husband will be at the Havertys warehouse beginning Dec. 13 to organize and collect donations. They will begin deliveries later that same week.

Angel trees will be at Havertys Furniture on the West Loop 281 and Tele’s Mexican Restaurant on Judson Road.

Donations will not be accepted past Dec. 13.

To view-adopt a wish list, donate or for more information, go to www.hnangeltree.org .

Salvation ArmySalvation Army’s Angel Trees will be at Walmarts in Longview and Kilgore and at the Longview Mall.

A registry at walmart.com also allows people to view and order gifts that have been requested by children. The gifts are then shipped directly to the Salvation Army, where they are organized and later distributed.

The deadline to turn in gifts is Dec. 11, and they will be distributed to families Dec. 16 and 17.

For information on how to donate, call (903) 215-8463.

Blue SantaThe Longview Police Department’s Blue Santa program will return for the second year with its Shop with a Cop program.

Longview police spokesman Brandon Thornton said this past year’s change from traditional toy donations was made because of COVID-19 precautions. Rather than accepting toys, the police department decided to accept monetary donations to purchase gift cards that would be used to shop for toys alongside the children receiving them.

Thornton said the program “worked out pretty good,” and a large number of police officers volunteered to participate and shop with children.

“Our officers had a great time,” Thornton said.

He added that members of the Texas Department of Public Safety as well as Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center employees also helped out.

The Blue Santa will hold a fundraiser in partnership with Telco Plus Credit Union and Bubba’s 33 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Dec. 1.

By mentioning the Blue Santa name, Bubba’s will donate 10% of each ticket sale to the program.

Blue Santa is only accepting monetary donations this year through drop-offs at the Longview Police Department. Cash and check donations will be accepted at the records window inside the department. Checks can be made out to the Blue Santa Project.

For information, visit tinyurl.com/longviewbluesanta .

Longview Fire Department Toy DriveThe Longview Fire Department will hold its Toy Drive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 11 in the parking lot of the Longview Mall.

Volunteers will be on hand to accept donations.

For information, visit www.facebook.com/LongviewTXFireDept .

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Special Holiday Market in Longview offers handmade creations, seasonal delicacies
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Vendors from Longview and elsewhere in the area showcased their handmade creations, crafts and delicacies Saturday during the Holiday Market, which wrapped up the season at the Historic Longview Farmers Market.

Marisa Guillory said she comes to the weekly market at the corner of High and Cotton streets specifically for macarons made by Milk & Cookies Bakery.

“I come out most weekends,” Guillory said.

Mary Joe Murphrey said she and her husband regularly visit the farmers market to pick up pork chops and blue cheese.

“We come a couple times a month,” Murphrey said. “There are particular things we like to buy.”

Various seasonal foods and snacks and condiments were offered at Saturday’s special Holiday Market.

Zareen and Sami Kahn, who run Chill’um, brought a multitude of Greek-and Indian-inspired dishes.

“We have braised lamb with hummus and tabbouleh sauce that was all gone in the morning,” Sami Kahn said. “Then we have all these cakes today (that) we usually don’t have.”

Zareen Kahn said she made fresh fruit pastries, cream cheese brownies, pumpkin cake and orange milk cake for the Holiday Market.

Claude Hammond from Wo Wo Joe Coffee offered cold brew kits wrapped in festive holiday ribbon, which he said would make an “awesome Christmas present.”

Hammond, who said he learned espresso roasting in Italy, offered a holiday beverage recipe that utilizes cold brew coffee.

“If you wanna make an awesome fall and winter beverage with cold brew coffee, you mix it with heavy cream. You put in some pumpkin puree, you put in pumpkin pie spice, a bit of brown sugar and pour it over ice,” Hammond said. “It’s fabulous, and it’s better than a pumpkin spice latte at any drive-thru coffee place. It’s really nice.”

Terry Wright, who runs Bee Wright, offered a variety of spiced and flavored honeys as well as mead.

Other than the flavors offered year round, such as blackberry, peach and pear, Wright sold seasonal mead as well, such as cranberry.

Niki Latiolais said it was her first time visiting the farmers market, and she came to support friends who run Greer Farm in Daingerfield.

She purchased beef jerky from the Greer Farm booth, which her daughter, Logan Latiolais, said was “really good.”

Madeline Clairborne and her husband, Jalen, said they also were first-time visitors to the farmers market.

“We actually moved to Longview like four years ago and have never come out to the farmers market before,” Madeline Clairborne said. “It’s always been on my list of things to do, and we’ve never been, so I thought the Holiday Market would be a good one to try for the first time.”

She purchased local honey from Bee Wright, which she says she’s always looking for.

“My daughter has allergies, and so the local honey kinda helps regulate her allergies,” she said.

The Historic Longview Farmers Market is set to return next year.

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Arts!Longview considers creative space for local artists
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Arts!Longview is asking for feedback on a possible new creative space for local artists.

Cynthia Hellen, executive director of Arts!Longview, said the nonprofit organization is in the early stages of the project, which could serve as a workspace, performance space or exhibition space.

Hellen said she wants artists to have a place where they can display and sell their work. Additionally, she believes the space could be used to bring in community members who don’t know a lot about the local art scene and want to become engaged.

“If we did it, it would be super cool not just for the artists but the community,” Hellen said. “A place that the public can come in and see and buy and enjoy and hang out and take part in whatever’s going on there that day.”

Arts!Longview has emailed surveys to local artists to gauge response/need for such a space. Those contacted include artists who have participated in ArtWalk over the past several years as well as those who participated in recent mural projects, among others, Hellen said.

Directors of local cultural organizations also were given surveys to pass along to local artists, including painters, musicians and performance artists.

She said about 20 survey responses have been received so far.

The survey asks such questions as:

“In an artist incubator workspace, what tools would need to be provided?”;

“What kind of lighting will you need in the workspace?”; and

“What hours would you need access to the workspace?”

“It’s just a big, big project, and we wanna make sure we’re going about it the right way and taking all the needs into consideration,” Hellen said.

She said when the organization applied for its designation as a cultural district from the Texas Commission on the Arts, having an artist workspace was on the application as one of the goals it wanted to accomplish in the future.

One of the members of the board for Arts!Longview owns a warehouse and offered it for possible future use by the organization.

“When we were presented this idea of this warehouse, we kind of thought that could be what we’re looking for,” Hellen said.

The organization is still accepting surveys and reviewing responses, and Hellen said she will send one to anyone who’s interested.

“We believe there’s a need for it, but getting that feedback from people who would actually use it is very important. And getting a sense that there is a need for something like that in town is very encouraging,” Hellen said.

Since the plan is in the early stages, there is no indication of how much the project would cost or how it would be paid for, Hellen said.

However, she believe that with the number of creative people in Longview, a space for artists would benefit the community.

“Another place where there can be that interaction with artists I think would be really a benefit to the community, and a cool addition to what’s going on here in Longview,” Hellen said.