The Pine Bluff Commercial's Christmas Tree Fund will once again provide much-needed assistance to the Watson Chapel School District this year.

The Pine Bluff Commercial’s Christmas Tree Fund will once again provide much-needed assistance to the Watson Chapel School District this year.

Brenda Melton, assistant superintendent for instruction at Watson Chapel, said that donations from the fund provide needy students in the district with essential services.

“We spend the money in needy situations,” Melton said. “We will take kids to the eye doctor to get eye exams done and have glasses fitted for them. We also take kids in for hearing tests if their parents cannot afford to pay for it themselves.”

The Commercial has sponsored the fundraiser for 24 years to help children in need in area schools. Thanks to generous donations from the public, the newspaper raised nearly $9,500 last year.

“We also buy shoes and clothing items,” Melton said. “Classroom teachers will pass the word on to counselors if they have a child with particular needs. The counselor will then get the sizes and buy clothing and shoes for the student or if it is a vision or hearing issue, will get the child to the doctor for the tests.”

“The number of people we help with the Fund varies from year to year,” Melton said. “Some years we will help a dozen and some years we will help more than that. We have had house fires and the affected students and their families have received assistance from the fund.”

Since 1987, The Commercial has raised thousands of dollars for students in the Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel, Dollarway and White Hall school districts. The newspaper does not keep any of the funds, but distributes all money received to the schools to help children and at times, entire families who are in need.

The 2010 fund raised $9,422.22.

Donors who give at least $1 by 5 p.m. Dec. 16 may have their names printed on a Christmas Card to be published in The Commercial before Christmas. Donations may be made to the Christmas Card Fund, care of the Pine Bluff Commercial, P.O. Box 6469, Pine Bluff, AR, 71611. Contributions may also be brought to The Commercial offices at 300 S. Beech St.