- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

COALMONT, Tenn. (AP) - A family with ties to the Coalmont area brings Christmas spirit back to their hometown and to a community in need.

The Creighton family began a tradition years ago by giving generous donations during the holiday season. Many of the family members moved away from the community in southeastern Tennessee, but return every year with enough gifts for everyone in town.

“My mother and I were up here and we happened to see some children waiting for the school bus and it was like in the teens, and they didn’t have on a warm jacket,” said Nancy Tolbert.

Nancy Tolbert began giving away donations with her mother, Jane Creighton.

It started as just a few winter jackets being donated by the family, but now, almost 20 years later their generosity has a name of its own.

“The Jane Creighton Christmas Express of 2014,” said Coalmont Minister Ray Winton.

Making of the Christmas express starts each year in September, when their friend Ray Winton passes out wish lists around town.

“The requests go home with the school children, the requests that are given out on the church,” said Winton, “They go home and decide what they like to have, what they need.”

They go out early so by the time the holiday season is here there is a U-Haul truck carrying all the gifts everyone has been hoping for.

People ask for clothing, toys, games and some are even getting bicycles. There are so many donations the Creighton family lost count.

“There’s over 800 bags, I have no idea some bags have eight and 10 gifts in them,” Tolbert said. “You know it just depends on what that individual requested.”

Donations are unloaded at the Coalmont Methodist Church where organizers of the Christmas express hope to see families finding everything they need this holiday season.

“You don’t have to have a million dollars to help your friend or help your neighbor,” Tolbert said, “Just reach out and see what the need is.

“I get a whole lot more than anybody else does out of it, because it lets me know that I have some way in trying to make a difference in this world,” said Winton.

Now that all of the donations and gifts have been delivered, people who filled out a wish list can go to the Coalmont Methodist Church anytime to pick up their gifts.

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