BELTON — Folks were merry and bright Saturday during Christmas on the Farm at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton.
Misty Biddick, executive director of Aware Central Texas, which sponsors the annual holiday event, said the nonprofit hopes to raise about $10,000.
“We work with families, victims of abuse,” she said. “These may need financial support. This is among the things providing us with the ability to help them. Families have all kinds of needs, especially when they are leaving a dangerous relationship.”
The agency has held the fundraiser every December since 2006, but skipped 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
One of the new things this year is there were a lot of volunteers from throughout the county helping out, she said.
“It’s really showing that teamwork that goes into providing help,” she said.
Melissa Franks of Killeen had a dozen Killeen Early College High School students taking care of the Country Store.
“This is our third year volunteering,” Franks said. “We want our kids to get out into the community and be aware of what’s going on. Aware Central Texas is all about supporting children and their families. Our kids just like to get involved.”
All of the Country Store toys were donated, she said.
“You can purchase them with tickets that are bought here,” she said. “It’s a fun way for kids to pick out toys that are less expensive than going to the store.”
Kallee Congdon of Killeen made cotton candy and helped with the bake sale. Aware Central Texas got donations from around the county of cupcakes, bundt cakes, bread, cotton candy mix and popcorn, she said. This was her first year to volunteer for the event, which she heard about through Biddick.
“Aware is just a great organization in general, and I like Christmas, too,” Congdon said.
At the Princess Booth, Michelle Blair of Fort Hood watched her two daughters, Macy, 7, and Hayleigh, 6, get their faces painted and their nails done.
“This is our first time,” Blair said. “They were giving out entry tickets from school.”
Both girls were in similar costumes, which they told her was that of an “elf snowflake.”
“They visited with Mrs. Claus,” their mother said. “They loved it. They were excited to see her. For sure they are ready to see Santa. Hayleigh has to find out if she’s on the nice list.”
Sarah Yowell of Killeen was taking care of the Mrs. Claus booth. Dressed as elves, her two daughters guided the children onto the little stage. For Addison, 11, it was the second time to help; for Aubree, 7, it was her first.
“They enjoy it a lot, spreading the holiday spirit,” their mother said.
Rosie Swisher of Belton watched her son, Austin, 10, walk through the Pirate Ship.
“We made an ornament,” she said. “We’ve been to the bake sale. We just got here. He wants to go to the petting zoo.”
Austin said he liked decorating the ornaments.
“I like the details,” he said of the Pirate Ship.
Tiffany Chaney, a senior at Texas A&M University and a member of Women Against Sexual Assault, volunteered at the Stuffed Animal Pet Adoption booth.
“They get to name it,” she said of each child’s stuffed animal. “It’s very popular, because we’re by the Petting Zoo. For some families, we’re the last stop before they go to the other side.”
Kayte Ricketts, education coordinator for Bell County Museum, encouraged people to stop at the museum’s booth.
“We’re making reindeer chow,” she said. “It helps Santa’s reindeer fly.”
The children got to decorate their bags and grind a little corn. The helpers added “magic dust” and the children made a Christmas wish, she said.
“When they get home, they’ll put it in their front yard for the reindeer to eat on Christmas Eve,” she said.