Thousands of gifts were wrapped just in time for a couple from Noble to provide a joyful holiday for hundreds of mentally challenged Oklahomans.
Eighteen groups of volunteers delivered roughly 12,000 gifts to centers throughout Oklahoma on Christmas Eve. Those gifts are going to people who otherwise would have been mostly forgotten about, according to event organizers. But, for more than three decades, Jim and Annette Brown of Noble have been making sure the residents are remembered.
Christmas Eve morning was full of music and smiles at a home for the mentally challenged in Mustang. There were also hugs and the much anticipated gifts from Santa that marked the occasion.
"This makes Christmas," organizer and humanitarian Annette Brown said.
It's been a full year of buying and wrapping gifts for the Browns. News 9 first met them in August of 2012 when they showed us donated goods they were collecting to help victims of Oklahoma wildfires. That's when we first learned of their state-wide Christmas Project.
"Residents are often asking in July if we're going to have Christmas," Jim Brown said as he prepared presents for the big day.
The Browns have dedicated their garage to the project, turning it into Santa's workshop.
"It's a lot of hard work getting gifts ready," Annette said. "But, the icing on the cake and the fun part is when you get to help Santa, and you get to hand out gifts."
It's hard for Annette and Jim not to tear up each year they deliver presents. Connecting individually with each resident stirs up many emotions.
"It wouldn't be Christmas without this," Annette said. " … not after all these years. It's almost a whole lifetime … I want this to continue when I'm not here."
On the day after Christmas, the Browns will start shopping for next year. Their project would not be possible without donations and the help of many volunteers.
If you would like to help, call the Browns at (405)-872-8694.
The Christmas Project benefits 1,700 mentally challenged Oklahomans each year.