By Paula Walter

Old Mill Ministries held their 10th annual Christmas celebration this past Saturday at the Tennessee National Guard Armory. A traditional Christmas meal of turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and all the trimmings was served as each child eagerly waited a special gift from Santa. Although Andy and Lisa Zeggert, with Old Mill Ministries, have moved out of the area, they return each year, as this event is one of their largest and most eagerly-awaited gatherings. “There are usually between 400 and 500 who come for the Christmas meal,” said Lisa.
Despite the cold weather this past weekend, a long line formed for those waiting not only for the festive Christmas party, but there was also a large selection of new coats, hats and gloves for adults and young alike. Gently used clothes, toys and household items had also been donated. According to Lisa, there has only been one year where the weather made it difficult for people to attend. “We went door to door to take it to them,” she added.
According to Lisa, attendees fill out a registration form with contact information, but stress there is no criteria for people to meet to partake in the Christmas celebration. Their events are non-inclusive and non-denominational. “We’re here to be a blessing,” Lisa said. “Every year it grows.”
While the group was still gathered in the main room where the Christmas meal was served, Andy Zeggert shared the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus.
A closed off separate area held toys for boys and girls. Each child had the opportunity to go in and chose an item. The room was full with items for all ages, from cars and trucks to Barbie dolls, stuffed animals and even Olaf from the movie, Frozen. According to Lisa, Cash Express is the central location for donations. “They collect the toys and donations for us,” she said.
An endeavor of this size cannot be carried out without the help of the community. According to Kim Potter of Cash Express, the community is very supportive of the coat and toy drive. “We had so much,” she stated. “Our office was full and the front was full. It was such a success. It was the best toy drive we’ve had.” According to Potter, jars are set out at various business locations across the county. The money collected is then used to purchase toys and coats.
If you are interested in contributing to next year’s Christmas Celebration, donations can be taken to Cash Express, located at 503 A South Church Street, next to Duffy’s. Collection for next year’s event begins at the end of October.