“On Christmas morning, volunteers at the Clara White Mission gave away as many as 300 bags of food to families and individuals who would have had no Christmas dinner otherwise. The annual early afternoon children’s Christmas party offered hungry kids toys and fruit and candy and ice cream,” writes FSCJ professor Tim Gilmore in his book In Search of Eartha White, Storehouse for the People. “The children started lining up on West Ashley hours before Eartha and her volunteers handed toys out to the lines stretched around the block at 2 o’clock.”
That annual Christmas party, known as the Merry Hearts Club, was established by Dr. Eartha M.M. White in 1930. When White passed away in 1974, the event died with her. But on December 16 of this year, the Merry Hearts Club returns to bring a little ray of sunshine into the lives of needy Jaxsons.
“City Council just passed legislation to place a historical landmark for her [White] on the corner of Forsyth and Broad streets, and another one on the corner of Ashley and Broad,” says Clara White Mission CEO Ju’Coby Pittman. “We’re going to do an unveiling for that and have a pilgrimage from where it started to the Mission. Then we’re going to have a celebration to kick off the party again, and give out gifts that afternoon.”
“Our purpose can only be achieved through the co-operation of the kind-hearted people of our city,” White wrote some 80 years ago. “Any contribution that you may make, however small, will help lighten the burden and bring happiness to some needy person.”
Her words remain as true today as they were then.
Pictured: Eartha M.M. White distributing gifts at the Clara White Mission’s annual Christmas party in 1963.