by Jerri Whitner, Student Contributor
When Mrs. Lloyd first met the residents of Eastern Kentucky, she was in awe of their strong work ethic and fierce desire to learn and grow into Appalachian leaders. Nevertheless, she quickly learned that the hardworking people of Eastern Kentucky needed more than education; they needed the simple joy of Christmas, too. Many of the local families taught their children the birth of Christ, but few were able to celebrate the holiday. However, like many things in the Appalachian region, Christmas changed over time and what was once sparsely celebrated is now considered a festive tradition. The Jesse Stuart Foundation highlights the progression of the holiday in the collection of short stories titled: True Christmas Stories from the Heart of Appalachia. Alice Lloyd College’s Development Specialist, Margo Sparkman, had the honor of writing the story about the beginning of ALC’s Christmas Pretties Program for the collection, “Christmas at Caney Creek (Alice Lloyd College)”.
Margo Sparkman has served ALC for 42 years in numerous departments and roles. Some of which include Director of Gift Receipting, Director of Donor Relations and Publications, Director of Planned Giving, and Direct Mail Specialist. For the past seven years, Margo held the position of Director of Development but is now transitioning into semi-retirement. Her dedication and passion for ALC makes her an expert on the College’s history. However, in the “Christmas at Caney Creek (Alice Lloyd College),” Margo focuses not only on the history of Christmas on Caney Creek, but also the timeless story behind it.
The Christmas Pretties Program was created by Mrs. Lloyd and her mother, Mrs. Ella Geddes, a program that remains a treasured campus tradition. Margo wrote that Mrs. Geddes, “…was astonished that these people did not celebrate the most important event in history, so she decided that there would be Christmas on Caney from that point on.” Mrs. Lloyd and her mother had the dream for every child to have a “pretty” at Christmas, but they could not begin their modest wish without support from Mrs. Lloyd’s friends. For years, Mrs. Lloyd sat down at her Oliver 9 typewriter to write letters to friends throughout the nation to not only donate a doll or a toy truck for Christmas but also to simply donate a dollar to help illuminate the minds and hearts of the people of Appalachia. Today, the College remains humbled by the generosity of ALC’s wonderful friends across the country that continue to faithfully support not only the College but the century old tradition of giving Christmas “Pretties” to Appalachian children.