December 12 , 2005
generosity helps Mexican towns
While it may not look like it, there is organization
among the chaos in Cindy Cross’ Yerkes National Primate Research
Center office. On one side is a pile of 77 Christmas stockings—actually
beige drawstring bags—overflowing with stuffed animals, plastic
jewelry, toy cars, yo-yos, Play-Doh, socks, books and many more gifts.
In front of her desk are huge boxes of baby items,
school and senior center supplies
and cookie tins—all stacked among their like
“I can barely get to the printer,” said Cross, program coordinator
for scientific programs at Yerkes, noting that a path about six inches wide is
her only throughway from the door to her desk that doesn’t require climbing
over someone’s gifts.
For the last five years, Cross has coordinated Yerkes’ holiday-giving
efforts. This year the gifts and stockings are destined for three
poor communities in
Mexico and the children and families who live there.
“The inspiration and organization is 99 percent Cindy’s, but the
center is totally behind it,” said Tom Gordon, associate director for scientific
programs at Yerkes. “We embrace the idea of reaching out to do something
like this, and I think everyone has the same feeling.”
Gordon sure does. His two daughters, ages 7 and 8,
are in charge of stuffing their gift stocking. They are given a budget
guidance,” Gordon said) to select gifts for a child their age.
“As a parent it’s great, because one of the things you want to teach
your kids to share and understand what that means, so the holidays aren’t
all about ‘my list to Santa,’” Gordon said.
The stockings contain age- and gender-appropriate gifts
for children ranging in age from infancy to 16, and they are destined
central Mexican communities
of Estancia, Las Colinas and Manivillas—where homes often are little
more than shacks.
Cross’ efforts at Yerkes are part of the wider
outreach work of her church, Mount Carmel Christian Church in Stone
Mountain. For three years, Cross and her
co-workers filled shoeboxes with toys and other gifts through the Kelly Street
Mission, a nonprofit organization based in Atlanta’s Grant Park and Summerhill
This year, Yerkes is collecting exclusively for Mexico
through SOAR Ministries and the Bethshean Mexico Mission—both
of which have relationships with Mt. Carmel. Instead of limiting
contributions to children’s toys (as was
the focus of Kelly Street) Yerkes staff and faculty were invited to donate
baby items, school supplies and items for a senior citizens center.
Cross sent out the first e-mails asking for stocking
stuffers around Thanksgiving, with a deadline date of Monday, Dec.
5. That morning,
Cross had some 40 stockings
piled in her office. Then she went to lunch; by the time she got back, nearly
all of the 77 were there, spilling out into the hallway.
Cross doesn’t have an accurate count of how many
Yerkes employees donated items, but she estimated more than 200.
Individual labs set up donation boxes,
and everyone contributed at least one item. She sent boxes to the Yerkes Field
Station in Lawrenceville. These boxes came back overflowing with gifts.
Yerkes’ 77 stockings will eventually join others
collected by Mt. Carmel members—the final number will be around
600—for the journey to Mexico.
Three women from the church will drive pickup trucks filled with the Christmas
gifts 30 hours to the central Mexico towns. Another three women from Jonesboro
Christian Church will accompany them in trucks of their own.
While her church has had ties to Bethshean for sometime,
Cross has never visited the villages she has helped. That will change
summer when she travels
to Mexico for two weeks to assist with a vacation Bible school and work to
and, in some cases, build homes for the villages’ families.
Until then, the only way Cross and her Yerkes co-workers
can see the happy faces that result from their giving is through
Last year Cross
rely on e-mailed photos, but this year photos from the gift-giving will be
uploaded to a website so she and all of Yerkes can share in the joy to which
Emory’s holiday giving efforts are not limited
to Yerkes (see story), and it is not necessary to create
any kind of formal giving effort at
work. Individual members of the Emory community can accomplish a lot on their
“There are so many people less fortunate than us,” she said. “Go
to any mall and find an angel tree. There is Toys for Tots. There are tons of
places to go.
“Or you can call me. I’ll sign you up.”