HIGH POINT — A tradition of holiday giving that spans nearly a century has officially returned this year with the kickoff of the annual Christmas Cheer Fund drive.

In its 98th year, the annual campaign, organized by the High Point Kiwanis Club, raises money to buy Christmas presents for underserved children in the greater High Point community. The club raises the money in conjunction with The High Point Enterprise, which publishes updates listing contributors and the amount of money raised.

This year’s goal is to raise $45,000, which will be used to buy gifts for about 200 children identified through the Boys and Girls Clubs of High Point and Communities in Schools.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit nearly two years ago, The Kiwanis Club, with the help of local agencies that serve underprivileged youths, took the children on a shopping spree at Target, allowing them to choose their own presents. In years prior, the club held a live gift distribution event.

This year, the two participating agencies will receive the money and decide how to get the gifts to children, whether it be through online or in-person shopping, said Bobby Jones, chairman of the Kiwanis Club Christmas Cheer Fund Committee.

“This year, we provided the money to the agencies and let them do a hybrid of what they thought was appropriate for their groups,” Jones said, adding that the club hopes to eventually get back to the live shopping spree.

In addition to Jones, this year’s Kiwanis Club Cheer Fund Committee members include Joan Campbell, Ellen Amick, Lynn Johnson, Wiley Stockton, Jim Horney, Kenny Mack, Ed Thomas and Steve Uhlin.

The fund drive was started in 1924 by The High Point Enterprise as a campaign to raise money for needy families. “Local organizations, such as the Rotary, Kiwanis and Civitan clubs, are to aid in taking care of these families,” The Enterprise said in a front page article published Dec. 12, 1924. The initial campaign collected $848.

The responsibility for the campaign has changed over the years. It was operated as an Empty Stocking Fund by the High Point Jaycees for about 30 years, after which it was passed around among different private local residents and groups.

When the last local nonprofit charitable organization owner, the late Benny Braica, retired in the 1990s, the High Point Kiwanis Club took over what’s now called the Christmas Cheer Fund. The Kiwanis Club is now in its 26th year of operating the fund.

Previous donors should have received letters and postpaid return envelopes for making a contribution this year. Donations should be made out to the Christmas Cheer Fund and sent to P.O. Box 5467, High Point, NC 27262. A total of contributions and a list of contributors will be published Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays during the campaign in The High Point Enterprise beginning Thanksgiving Day and running through Christmas. In early January, a listing of all donations to this year’s campaign will be printed.

jfeeney@hpenews.com | 336-888-3542 | @HPEJoe