PANAMA CITY — The Children’s Shopping Tour has been around about as long as the Panama City Jaycees’ Christmas Parade, but after 65 years, U.S. Junior Chamber National Vice President Jasmine Allen is giving the tour an extra push.
“The purpose of the Christmas Parade is to raise money for the shopping tour, as well as entertain the community,” Allen said. “The big benefit is that it helps children.”
This year, she has created Dinner and a Parade to raise more money for local children. Guests can enjoy a warm dinner in the Green Room of the Martin Theatre at 6 p.m., and then have special seating in front of the theater with a prime view of the parade, “A Toyland Christmas,” along Harrison Avenue at 7 p.m.
Most of the food will be prepared by Allen’s friend, Carol Cheshire, who also caters for the Marina Civic Center and other groups.
“It will be a variety … from chili to more kid-friendly pasta — a lot of warm foods and different breads from Publix and local bakeries. We’ll have cookies, cupcakes, hot chocolate to nibble on during the parade as well,” said Allen, whose company, All That Jazz, will provide sweets.
Seating is limited to 50 so everyone can comfortably move around during and after dinner.
“We want to make sure everyone can eat and have a view of the parade. It’s our inaugural event, so we want to make sure everyone wants to come back,” Allen said.
Individual, group and family rates for dinner are available, with the price depending on the age of the children.
“A 5-year-old is not going to eat as much,” Allen noted.
A family of four can expect to pay about $75, with all proceeds from the dinner going to the shopping tour.
“Every $75 is another child we can sponsor,” Allen said. “Typically, there are a number of people in Jaycees like me who work in social services.”
After receiving calls and being made aware of families in need, a committee looks at all of the names and circumstances, and then at the budget.
“We try to reach out to children that may not qualify for other assistance,” Allen said. “Sometimes those fall in the gaps when the income is a little higher but something causes them to struggle, such as a premature baby or medical need, with all of their money going to that.”
If enough money is not raised to buy for all the children in need, the Jaycees try to match them up with other local groups in the area, such as The Salvation Army.
“We take sponsorships until the day of,” Allen said. “Last year, a family walked up to us while we were shopping in Target and handed us a check.”
The children go shopping with Jaycees volunteers while their parents enjoy coffee or popcorn.
“Extra donations always help,” Allen said. “There’s that little boy who wants a remote control car, and the battery is $14. Almost every child wants to get a gift for a family member, too.”
All proceeds from the sales of the 15 Kent Designs Handcrafted Centerpieces on the tables will raise even more funds. “They range from about $15 to $20 on up,” Allen said.
An unexpected benefit of Dinner and a Parade?
“You will have a nice, clean, warm bathroom to use,” Allen said with a laugh.
DINNER AND A PARADE
When: Dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by the Panama City Jaycees’ Christmas Parade at 7 p.m.
Where: Martin Theatre, 409 Harrison Ave., downtown Panama City
Tickets: Email firstname.lastname@example.org; all proceeds to go to the Jaycees’ Children’s Shopping Tour
Details: Facebook.com/DinnerAndAParade or PCJaycees.org.