THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS IN ACTION
(formerly Christmas in April)
Christmas in Action is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that, in partnership with the community, repairs homes of low-income elderly and/or disabled homeowners by putting Christian values and principles in Action.
The seeds for Christmas In Action were planted in 1972 in Midland, Texas. Bobby Trimble was teaching his young men’s Sunday school class at Alamo Heights Baptist Church from James 2:14-17. In paraphrasing he told them, “If you see your neighbors in need of food and clothing, and say to them, ‘God bless you, I will pray for you’ and send them on their way, what good does it do?” He told them there is more to being a Christian than just going to church! The lesson encouraged the class to step outside the church walls and work on homes of women without husbands in the community. At first the repairs were small, such as repairing gates, furnaces, evaporative coolers, etc. This developed into larger projects and continued through the summer of 1973.
In the fall of 1973, the seeds began to sprout. The Park Center YMCA Executive Director, Bruce Stories, and YMCA Board Members wanted to clean up vacant lots in the area. These lots were located in a low income minority section of the community. Trimble attended the Park Center YMCA meeting chaired by Mr. Earl Booker. With Trimble’s input, they decided to expand their original plans and include home repairs of a few elderly residents in the area.
Human Relations Council (HRC) Executive Director Dick Schmidt, Bruce Stories, and Park Center Board Member Vic Rogers took charge of publicity and fundraising for this event. Bobby Trimble and other volunteers surveyed applicants’ homes, deciding which repairs would be completed. In October 1973, 17 homes were repaired.
In December, the YMCA Executive Director, HRC, and those who had worked as House Captains met and discussed the work done in October. Everyone agreed o participate in another project in six months, putting the annual workday in April.
In 1974, during an interview with a female recipient, Vic Rogers asked her what she thought of the program. The recipient replied, “Lordy, it was just like Christmas.” At the next meeting, all involved unanimously agreed to call the program “Christmas in April” (CIA).
In 1975, the YMCA opted to withdraw from the program, and the HRC allowed Christmas in April to work under the shelter of their 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Dick Schmidt and Vic Rogers continued handling fund raising and publicity. Roosevelt Campbell with the HRC and Trimble surveyed prospective CIA applicants’ homes.
In May 1976, Trimble set up the first CIA Board of Directors which was made up of former CIA House Captains. Trimble was elected President.
In the spring of 1976, Trimble surveyed the home of Mrs. Lillian Friday. She was living in an 8×10 storage building behind her sister’s house. Unfortunately, her home was not selected as an April project. Trimble shared Mrs. Friday’s plight with his Sunday school class and they decided to build her a new home next door to her sister, Mrs. Feltie Houston. The home was built with volunteer labor and donations from Alamo Heights Baptist Church. Trimble would not know the impact of this project on the CIA program until 1980.
The relationship with the HRC existed from 1975 through April 1980. Trimble applied for and received Christmas in April’s Charter with the State of Texas and a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status from the IRS in September 1980. As Christmas in April grew, so did the need for space to store materials. For a short time, CIA used an old tin building owned by Ann’s Catholic Church. In 1980, Mrs. Lillian Friday passed away and her sister, Mrs. Feltie Houston (80 years old), moved in with her daughter. Mrs. Houston contacted Trimble and told him that she wanted to give him her house, her sister’s house, and three lots. He sold these properties and purchased a 2,800 square foot structure which became the first Christmas in April warehouse. As fate would have it, the property was only a half block from the sisters’ homes. This gift was “the widow’s mite.”
In 1981, Kim Modisett submitted Trimble’s name to Governor Bill Clements’ office as a candidate for the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. Trimble won the award and was presented with it by Mrs. Bill Clements at a dinner in Austin, Texas. This award launched the Christmas in April program into national recognition and was the first time that the program grew outside of Midland, Texas.
Bill Clements then nominated Trimble for the President’s Volunteer in Action Award, a program initiated by President Ronald Reagan. Trimble received the award in April 1982 at a luncheon in the White House. Attending this luncheon was a Reader’s Digest executive who sent one of his senior editors to Midland to write a story about Trimble and the CIA program. This senior editor was Trevor Armbrister.
Armbrister came to Midland the Friday before the CIA He was not very impressed with the program until he began talking to the many volunteers who came to pick up materials at the CIA warehouse. Armbrister and Trimble met early Saturday morning for breakfast and began talking about the program and the people involved. During the day, Armbrister went from project to project and talked to the homeowners and volunteers. He could not believe people would give of their time and money to purchase materials and work on homes of perfect strangers! When Armbrister’s plane left for Washington, D.C., he was completely sold on Christmas in April.
The seeds that were planted kept growing. Trimble and his wife, Shirley, began to receive inquiries about CIA from cities throughout the nation. From their home, they mailed packets of information with instructions on starting a CIA They knew there was a need for a national program, but they did not have the funding or the know-how to get one started.
In 1983, Trevor Armbrister convinced his church in Washington, C. to start a Christmas in April program. Trimble and Armbrister spent many hours on the phone discussing step-by-step implementation.
Trimble was then asked to present the CIA program to Cisco, Big Spring, Pecos, Odessa, and Wichita Falls, Texas. The Midland program also expanded into helping year-round with emergency plumbing and heating repairs.
The need for a national program was becoming critical if CIA was to spread throughout the United States. Trimble was limited to reaching only cities in Texas, but a national program could be a clearing house whereby interested parties from all over the country could receive vital information on starting a CIA Trimble spoke with Armbrister, and he began to put the wheels in motion.
In June of 1988, Trimble received the honor of being invited back to the White House to present President Reagan with an award from the Volunteers of America. After that, Christmas in April continued to receive publicity from President Reagan as he continually mentioned the program on his Saturday radio program.
Christmas in April, USA kicked off in 1988 with the help of Steve Winchell, John McMeel, and Bobby Trimble. Steve Winchell loaned the new program $10,000 to get started, and Patty Johnson, former Executive Director of the Washington, D.C. CIA program, was hired as the first Executive Director for Christmas in April, USA. Thirteen cities were involved that first year.
From 1989 to 2000, Christmas in April, USA experienced tremendous growth, expanding from 13 programs to 254 programs across the nation. This remarkable growth occurred in large part to the positive publicity Christmas in April received through Trimble’s reception of the Governor’s Award in 1981, his visits to the White House in 1982 and 1988, the Reader’s Digest article in 1982, a Disney film about the program in 1983, an article in Newsweek magazine in 1990, and a video featuring Trimble and CIA included in “Unsung Heroes” in 1991.
In the spring of 2000, Christmas in April, USA voted to change its name to Rebuilding Together. Wanting to continue with its original mission and Christian roots, the Midland Board of Directors voted to resign from the national program on August 22, 2000. Since the Midland program could no longer use the Christmas in April name to start more programs as it had been trademarked by the national program, the Midland Board voted to change its name to Christmas In Action on August 22, 2000.
Christmas In Action has continued to invest in this community, and has been fortunate to partner with many local oil companies, including Chevron and OXY, to tackle more projects and serve more families in our neighborhoods.
September 15, 2013 marked a milestone; on that day, Christmas In Action completed its 10,000th All of that year’s House Captains were involved in the home repair and the Midland newspaper covered the story and the positive impact that this ministry makes on the community.
Christmas In Action continues to assist elderly and disabled homeowners across the United States by completing a variety of home repairs with volunteer labor. This organization continues to foster community leadership and a neighbor helping neighbor effort for the benefit of thousands every year, recipients and volunteers alike.
Since its inception, Christmas In Action of Midland (formerly Christmas in April) has repaired over 11,000 homes. More than 50,000 volunteers have given their time and talents to help the elderly and disabled in the community. Thousands have given unselfishly from their wallets so that others may live in safety, warmth, and independence.
What started as a seed of an idea in a Sunday school class has been cultivated and grown into a thriving, nationwide movement!