Many of Christmas’ whimsical traditions have serious history behind them. The Mount Airy Woman’s League likewise mixed festive gift wrapping with its Wrap a Smile project in Mayberry Mall for a very important cause.
According to “head elf” and league spokeswoman Alice Hawks, this was the first time the group has offered holiday gift wrapping and accepted donations for Operation Smile, which was founded in 1982 by Dr William P. Magee Jr., and his wife, Kathleen Magee, to repair children’s facial deformities in 51 countries.
Hawks, who is an operation room nurse, has been a long-time volunteer with Operation Smile and has recently returned from China.
“This is our 30th year in existence,” said Hawks. “We have repaired more than 200,000 cleft palates and lips in children worldwide.” She said the fundraising event was just one of many the league stages yearly to help the effort. The league also makes the hospital gowns Hawks uses on her mission trips. It also assembles “smile bags” with toys to help children.
“We (the league) do all types of activities throughout the year,” explained Hawks who said the group’s projects include scholarships and downtown beautification programs.
“We (the league) are a powerful group for our size,” said Hawks. “There’s only a dozen members. We have only been able to have Wrap a Smile one day this year at the mall, but we’re hoping to return next year for more days.” She said 95 percent of all the supplies the league uses to wrap gifts were donated by local businesses and individuals.
Hawks said she has had a variety of experiences serving with Operation Smile. The contrast between what the nation here has as opposed to what other countries have has left strong impressions with her.
“About $240 will pay for the types of surgery we do,” began Hawks. “And I assure you this will change a life.” She said she volunteers her vacation time to participate in Operation Smile. “I’ve literally been all over the world. I’ve been to Panama, Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil, Russia, Kenya and India.”
When asked if experiences in other countries has left her more with memories of differences or similarities in culture, Hawks leans toward the similarities.
“I think universally we (parents) love our children and want them to grow up and have the best opportunities,” said Hawks. “It is striking how little these children are born into. They have nothing because of having these deformities and are considered not perfect. Getting these things fixed with surgery literally gives them an opportunity to speak, to go to school and to get a job.”
She added that once repairs are done to the cleft palates or lips not only are these children’s lives changed but everyone in the community’s life improves because they can become productive members of society.
Hawks said she became interested in Operation Smile when Dr. Edward Beeson returned from a mission and told his colleagues about the experience.
“I thought wow, that’s amazing. I want to do that,” remembered Hawks. “I was hooked after the first mission.”
The women’s league also is getting ready for its annual local arts festival which has been scheduled for Jan. 24. The winners of this event will advance to district arts competition on Feb. 16 in Kernersville and winners from that event will then go to state competition at Campbell University. Typically, local school districts as well as the State Employee Credit Union helps in selecting entrants for the festival.
According to Woman’s League State President Wendy Carriker, the arts festival includes many categories for competition such as music, voice and poetry. The Mount Airy Junior Woman’s Club also participates in the event. Carriker explained the festival is an event for more than 500 woman’s clubs across the state, four of which are in Surry County. She said it falls under the clubs’ international outreach programs mission.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.