By John Harvey
As the mother of two young adults, Cindy Balderson said she’s spent the last two decades focused on the special moments in her daughter’s lives.
The 54-year-old Mechanicsville resident expanded her role to spread joy to needy area families as the 2017 Hanover Christmas Mother.
Balderson has lived in Hanover for 30 years and her husband, Ron, has taught technology for more than 20 years at Oak Knoll and Chickahominy middle schools. Ron is a third-generation educator in Hanover County. They have two daughters, Kelly and Molly, who are both graduates of Hanover High School.
She has worked at Dominion Energy for 35 years and serves as the philanthropy manager. Balderson’s duties include making grants to non-profit organizations and coordinating the volunteer program. She was announced as this year’s Hanover Christmas Mother, Wednesday, Nov. 1, during a tea event held at the home of Deborah and Frank Flippo in Doswell. Vogue Flowers donated the corsage for Balderson, who was greeted by more than a dozen former Christmas Mother’s.
“I feel that this is an opportunity to use a skill set I’ve developed at Dominion to work with an amazing volunteer organization,” Balderson said. “I was very honored to even be considered. When I hear about this organization and all the moving parts, all the volunteers, all the children involved in canned food drives, I’m amazed that a volunteer organization is able to do so much.”
Balderson is very familiar with the program as her in-laws are very active in the local Ruritan Club. In 2003, Gay Mitchell, a close friend of Balderson was named Christmas Mother, which prompted her interest. She told her mother-in-law that she’d like to do that one day, but never really gave it much more thought. Two months ago, Balderson’s mother-in-law called and told her that she hoped she wouldn’t be mad, but she had nominated Balderson for this year’s Christmas Mother.
“I wasn’t made at all,” Balderson said. “I’m actually pretty excited that I she remembered that I had expressed interest.”
The Hanover Christmas Mother program began in 1949 as a way to help support families and senior citizens in need of assistance during the holidays. The organization provides food, clothing and gifts to ensure that everyone has a chance for a good Christmas. The Doswell Ruritan Club coordinates the program with other Ruritan groups in the county. The Christmas Mother is selected on a rotating basis each year.
Franklin Jones, Doswell Ruritan club member and coordinator of the Christmas Mother program, said the names of families and senior citizens eligible for donations through the program may be submitted through Social Services of families can submit their names to the program to receive help through the program.
In 2016, the Hanover Christmas Mother program helped 681 families, 1,557 children and 154 seniors with food, gifts and support during the holiday season. He noted that while they helped 10 less families and 92 less children than in 2015, they helped 56 more seniors.
Families and individuals that receive support through the program are given food and gift cards based upon the amount of people in their family. Jones noted that the program packed 950 boxes of food in 2016 and the Hanover County Schools donated 11,000 cans. Toys for children are selected based on the child’s age and gender.
The program is already in full swing as canned drive and donations are starting to pour in through the schools and from local businesses. The food collected from the schools will be delivered to the community building Dec. 4 and the Ruritan will spend the next two days sorting through the food. They will start packing boxes inside the building on Dec. 13 and the delivery date will be Dec. 16 in locations in Mechanicsville, Montpelier and Doswell. Families will receive letters in the mail with information on when and where to pick up their packages.
Jones said the volunteers are the life-blood of this program.
“A lot of people come and help out the Christmas Mother and we do thank you so much,” Jones said. “If it wasn’t for the volunteers helping, the Doswell Ruritan Club could not do this project. It’s more man-power in it than we have members that can do it.”
Balderson will represent the Hanover Christmas Mother at a variety of events during the next several months, including the Ashland and Mechanicsville holiday parades as well as the Holly Ball, put on by the Town & Country Cotillion.
“My role is that of a cheerleader and to offer appreciation,” Balderson said. “It really does take the entire community to make this happen. I think I will spend the month of January writing thank you notes, which I am happy to do. I’m so excited to be a part of a cooperative community that really does care for its neighbors.”
She has already reached out to last year’s Christmas Mother, Ginger Stanley, for pointers. Balderson said that this position has given her a renewed spirit of giving heading into the holiday season.
“I do believe that volunteers do make magic,” Balderson said. “From a personal standpoint, this is the first thing I’ve been excited about for me, in quite a long time. I have daughters who are 21 and 23 and for the last 20 years everything that I’ve been excited about has been there endeavors. This is exciting for me. It brings magic back to my home for Christmas. When the kids get older, the Santa Claus magic is gone, at least until the next generation comes along, so I really do look forward to working with each of you to bring magic to other homes throughout our community.”