A classic holiday staple in Wellman is still going strong, just with a few changes to cope with the coronavirus.
For years, the Wellman Cooperative Telephone Association has put together a Christmas display featuring a mitten tree. Local organizations and customers stop by and drop off winter accessories to decorate a tree in the lobby.
“We normally get a good response,” said Lisa Miller Allen, who works customer service for the telephone association. “Last year and the year before, we had well over 130 mittens, scarves and gloves…over 160 one year.”
This year, three weeks before Christmas, there was only a solitary pair of bright red gloves stashed in the thistles of the tree.
“I know it’s kind of funny seeing just one pair up there, but usually it starts snowballing closer to the holidays,” Miller Allen said. “Some people have called us to see if we were doing it again, due to this year’s situation.”
The hats and gloves aren’t just for decoration. After Christmas, the employees at the telephone association will take them down and distribute them to Mid-Prairie West Elementary School. If a child loses or simply doesn’t have any accessories to keep them warm in the winter, the school will provide them with an article of clothing from among the donations. Miller Allen said it’s common for the school to go through the entirety of the donated supply each winter.
“This year, I thought about the fact that the school children have had so many challenges, even to go there, and my thought was that [keeping warm] should be the least of their worries,” she said.
Chances are the lonely gloves will soon have a host of company on the mitten tree. The local 4-H club has plans to contribute winter clothing. The Wellman library also put up a poster and Facebook posts to raise awareness of the ongoing campaign.
Many customers who would normally provide hats and gloves are unable to enter the lobby due to coronavirus restrictions. To raise community involvement, the office will place a container outside for passersby to drop off physical donations. Monetary contributions can be slid through the drop box slot to purchase more winter clothing for decoration, and then donation.
Miller Allen said her office would hand out thank you cards to community members who help.
“Usually, the week before Christmas we get a big load in, so they’ll be here,” she said. “This year it’s way scaled down…hopefully next year this will be a whole different scene.”