Fire victim has a three-trombone Christmas

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 26, 2001

[12/26/01]Christmas for Wayne and Madison Johnston turned out better than they thought it would be just a few days aso.

Friday, fire broke out in the mobile home Johnston shared with his 12-year-old daughter on Warrior’s Trail and burned it and all they owned, including Madison’s trombone. It was looking like a bleak Christmas.

But thanks to the generosity of the Vicksburg community through a drive begun by Smokey Burgess, manager of Super Valu Fresh Foods where Johnston also works, the Johnstons are well on their way to getting back on their feet.

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“The response has been excellent,” Burgess said. ” He really has been overwhelmed.”

Burgess said both Wayne and Madison Johnston received gifts of more than enough clothes to fill their immediate and near future needs.

“They really got more clothes than they can use,” he said. “He’s planning to give some to the (River City) Rescue Mission.”

The Johnstons have also received considerable donations of household items, Burgess said, adding they have two beds, a chest of drawers, a washer, a dryer and a refrigerator already in hand. Several other items have been donated and only need to be picked up.

“They are down to the odds and ends like lamps and end tables,” Burgess said.

In addition to Christmas gifts, people actually donated three trombones to Madison, so she decided to donate two to the school band.

As generous as the community has been responding to that need, some of the local service agencies have seen a downturn in contributions since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.

“We are down about $3,000,” said Capt. John Showers, commander of the local Salvation Army.

He said the Army has had to cut back on some of its holiday programs, notably the food distributed to the needy at Christmas. They were only able to distribute about $500 worth of groceries this year.

Another program that saw a cut was the one that provides gifts to nursing home residents. Normally, the Army can operate the program at three homes, but was only able to help one this year.

There is hope, Showers said. “We don’t end our Christmas drive until Dec. 31.”

Donations at the Vicksburg Area Chapter of the American Red Cross were also down, said spokesman Judy Turnage, although she could not say by how much.

“A lot of what we have been getting in (since Sept. 11) had to be sent to New york because that’s what it was earmarked for,” she said. “We hope that will change.”

Haven House Family Shelter is one of the local agencies where donations are keeping pace.

“I’d say we were doing remarkably well,” said Scotty Kiihnl, victim services director at Haven House.

She said the shelter’s regular donors have maintained their generosity but the character of some of the gifts have changed. Instead of cash, some contributors are giving things they have made.

One of the contributions the shelter received this year came from the employees of the Isle of Capri – Vicksburg. Late last week the Isle’s employees delivered a check for $1,100 and boxes filled with toys and clothes to the shelter.

The Warren County Children’s Shelter was another agency where the dontations have been coming in, said Tracey Phifer.

“It hasn’t been a lot different,” she said.