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Christmas memories for Cross

Editor’s Note: The Suffolk News-Herald will be sharing Christmas memories of notable locals in the weeks leading up to Christmas in order to help promote the Cheer Fund.

Local real estate agent Harry Cross has a lot of great memories of Christmas while growing up in Suffolk.

“I remember they used to string the red and green lights across the street from the electrical poles” in downtown, Cross recalled. He also remembered wreaths and other decorations put up by many downtown businesses, from the small mom-and-pop shops to the department stores such as Ballard & Smith and Leggett’s.

“It was quite a jolly atmosphere,” he said. “It was just kind of a fun little magical time just to walk down the street.”

There were traditions Cross remembers at home, too. He remembers his dad decorating the front door with greenery, colored lights and a wreath. Christmas was a special day in his home, and he remembers getting a new bat for Christmas one time.

“Churches were a big part of the Christmas celebrates, too,” he recalled. “They usually had dinner and Christmas carols, and Santa would show up.” They would also collect food to be given to those less fortunate in the community.

That led him to talking about the Cheer Fund, which is an annual effort by the Suffolk community to provide toys for children from disadvantaged families.

“The Cheer Fund just does excellent work, and with all the struggles we’re having with the COVID and the economy, it’s even more important this year that we donate to it,” he said. “We give these folks not just the presents but the hope of Christmas.”

The Cheer Fund was an effort started by the Suffolk News-Herald in the 1930s to collect money. In its early years, the money was distributed to the Salvation Army for food baskets for the poor. Eventually, it switched to providing toys for children in Suffolk.

All of the needs for the fund are provided by newspaper staff and by accounting and law professionals in the community pro bono, meaning every dollar donated to the fund helps purchase a toy for a child in need.

“It’s just good work, and I appreciate all the people — (attorney) Frank Rawls, and the staff at the paper, and other people for all the good work they do in raising those funds and making that happen.”

The Cheer Fund provides approximately $40,000 to the Salvation Army every year.

To donate to the Cheer Fund, send a check to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439 or bring it to the newspaper’s temporary office, 157 N. Main St., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. We will list your donation in the newspaper, but it can be marked “anonymous” if you like. Donations may be made in honor of or in memory of someone. If you bring the check to our office, we’ll even take your picture as you hand it to one of our staff.

Online giving is available through the link on the Suffolk Cheer Fund Facebook page. For more information on the Cheer Fund, call 757-539-3437.