VOLUNTEERS OF THE WEEK: Cooksey, Thames join Santa’s helpers

Published 8:00 am Sunday, October 23, 2022

This week’s Vicksburg Post Volunteers of the Week are Claiborne Cooksey and Margaret Thames, the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg’s Chair and Co-Chair of Sincerely Santa.

This best-friend duo has a gift for holiday fun and love getting to work with one another. Thames is the co-chair of Sincerely Santa and is originally from Atlanta, Ga., but has lived in Vicksburg for the last eight years with her husband, Jared. Through these eight years, she has been a part of the Gumbo Cook-Off benefitting the Vicksburg Foundation for Historic Preservation, a board member of the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation, and recently joined the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg two years ago. Cooksey is the Chair of Sincerely Santa. She returned home to Vicksburg in 2018 with her husband, Kurt, who is also a Vicksburg native. She has been involved in the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg and First Baptist Church Women’s Ministry Team, and more recently began serving on the Vicksburg Convention and Visitor’s Bureau board of directors. Cooksey and Thames both have 2-year-olds who are also best friends. They are also collaborating on a children’s book inspired by light Halloween joys, which should be published by this time next year.

How long have you been volunteering with Sincerely Santa? 

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For Cooksey, this will be her third year serving on Sincerely Santa. During the pandemic in 2020, the Junior Auxiliary’s Fairytale Tea Committee had to quickly think of a way to bring the same magical experience to children in a safer way. The committee leaders reached out to Santa to see if he would be interested in hosting a virtual story time and also mail letters to children that really hoped to hear from him. “Santa Stories” began and it was a great success.

What is your favorite memory while planning Sincerely Santa? 

“On Second Saturday in September when Santa made a surprise visit downtown to Lorelei Books to read children’s books and hand out candy canes to visitors,” Thames said, adding that seeing the looks on all of the children’s faces made it all so sweet and wonderful. Cooksey stated, “It is hard to top seeing children’s faces light up when they see Santa in person, but seeing images of children receiving their letters from Santa in the mail and reading about how he is proud of their grades or wants them to practice cleaning their room — it’s just all pretty magical.”

What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering?

“Volunteering is a wonderful way to pay your community back in such a special way, especially when you are delivering such a magical part of Christmas to the children of Vicksburg. Serving others fills a special spot in your heart, and it puts everything in perspective,” Thames said. Cooksey added that “No one has the same gifts that you do — you’re needed. Choose a way and go. It is super rewarding to use your gifts or interests to bless other people, and there are many opportunities to jump in.”

What are your tasks while being Sincerely Santa chairs?

As chair, it has been a lot of organizing, coordinating and coming up with new ideas and ways to improve the fundraiser from the year before, said Cooksey. Thames and Cooksey began planning this in May and have been in constant communication about the Sincerely Santa project since then. This year, Thames had a wonderful idea to replace the story-time portion of the fundraiser with an actual photo event with Santa. They are looking forward to hosting Santa on Dec. 2 at the Duff Green Mansion. Tickets will go live on Nov. 5.

What have you learned from volunteering as a Sincerely Santa chair?

You cannot do it alone! Cooksey stated that she has always believed that you’ll be most successful when you work alongside others to reach a common goal. “Serving on Sincerely Santa over the last three years has further proved that,” she said. “Not only do we have an amazing Sincerely Santa committee, full of women who are eager to help and always offering wonderful ideas, but the support that we have received from people in the community like Racheal Holloway with Bella La Vita Photography, Harley Caldwell at Duff Green Mansion and Kelle Barfield at Lorelei Books is outstanding and we are very thankful.”

Any additional comments? 

“This is such a wonderful holiday tradition to start with your family,” Thames said. “We are filled with holiday spirit and getting to spread Christmas cheer to the children of Warren County.”

“When you buy your ticket to meet Santa in person or subscribe to Santa’s mailing list for a magical heirloom-quality letter, you are making an impact in the lives of children,” Cooksey said. “Your support of this fundraiser enables the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg to physically walk into our community and make a difference and we couldn’t do that without you.”

  • Subscribe to Santa’s mailing list at: https://bit.ly/3rIYTrX
  • Questions? Email: javicksburg.santa@gmail.com
  • Follow @JAVicksburg on Facebook for updates
  • Santa also has a Venmo and texts.

If there is a volunteer who should be featured, please submit their name and contact information to volunteer@vicksburgpost.com.