Last updated: December 21. 2013 7:36PM - 942 Views
By - tjoyce@civitasmedia.com

Ricky Puckett is handed a finished present while standing in front of “Mrs. Claus” (center, also known as Alice Hawks) and one of her helpers during Saturday's “Wrap a Smile” charity event.
Ricky Puckett is handed a finished present while standing in front of “Mrs. Claus” (center, also known as Alice Hawks) and one of her helpers during Saturday's “Wrap a Smile” charity event.
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Finding just the right present for a special someone can be only half the battle — there’s also the chore of having to wrap that gift in a way which will appeal to the recipient.

Saturday at Mayberry Mall, about 15 members of the Women’s League of Mount Airy had a solution for this dilemma, especially for male shoppers not especially “gifted” in the art of wrapping.

And in addition to supplying a valuable community service by adorning presents with colorful paper, ribbons and bows in the finest holiday tradition, they were working to help children in faraway lands with a pressing medical need. The gift wrapping was offered on a donations-only basis, with the money generated during the “Wrap a Smile” effort to be used to repair cleft-palate deformities among youngsters in various countries.

That dual mission seemed to be on the minds of those at work Saturday afternoon, including Alice Hawks, a Women’s League member heading the second annual event while dressed as Mrs. Claus. When asked what it takes to wrap a Christmas present properly besides fancy paper, Scotch tape and the all-handmade bows used Saturday, she replied:

“The key is patience and love — we put love in all the presents.”

Shoppers Take Advantage

Traffic at the wrapping station just outside Kmart was brisk, with more than 100 presents processed by early afternoon. None of those performing the task seem troubled by the fact their handiwork would be reduced to a pile of rubble once gifts are torn into come Christmas morning.

Many of the patrons were men seeking to have gifts wrapped without the knowledge of recipients possibly elsewhere in the shopping center. “Here, wrap this quick!” was the request of some, Hawks said.

However, she reminded that while production quotas might be important for elves at the North Pole, speed wasn’t the objective Saturday. “This is quality, not quantity,” she said in between presents.

Lines formed at times at the tables club members had set up, and although the women planned to split the tasks into three shifts among them, some had to work double-shifts to meet the demand.

“It’s been pretty crazy at times,” said Hawks, who works as a nurse.

Bennie Burton of the club had to jump right into the work upon arriving to start her shift and being faced with a slew of presents. “I’ve wrapped about six and I’ve just been here since 1 (p.m.) — 40 minutes,” she said.

Her fingers were getting a workout, but “so far they’ve held up well,” Burton added.

The unusual also made its way to the gift-wrapping center, where the ladies faced some oversized or unique items.

“I wrapped a five-foot level,” Hawks said of the carpentry tool she processed, just one example. There also were lots of toys and clothing. A cross-section of customers utilized the service, not only anxious husbands and boyfriends but young couples and others of all ages, Hawks added.

While many were taking advantage of the convenient opportunity to get packages wrapped, others were aware of the goal for Saturday’s “Wrap a Smile” activity and eager to help.

One was Ricky Puckett of Mount Airy, who while happy about having someone else wrap presents besides him, said he was there as “more of a concern for my wife” (Tisha).

“She wanted to help out this organization,” he said of the Women’s League.

The money raised will be used to help address the cleft-palate issue as part of Operation Smile, which has repaired facial deformities of children in 51 countries since being launched by a doctor in 1982.

Statistics show that one in 10 children born with a cleft palate will die before their first birthday. Many parents of those who survive can’t afford operations to correct the condition, leaving the sufferers unable to eat, smile or otherwise enjoy a normal life.

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or tjoyce@civitasmedia.com.

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