The familiar name Christmas in April is a thing of the past. Those hard-working volunteers who served hundreds of man-hours for Johnson County’s less fortunate will now operate under the name “Christmas In Action.” Rest assured, though, the name is all that changed, group organizers said.

Bobby Trimble, founder of the national organization, also renamed “Christmas In Action,” met with Cleburne’s Christmas In Action board Thursday for dinner to commend the group on their work and explain the necessity for the name change.

In 1972 Trimble took a Sunday school lesson at his Midland church to the extreme and started what would quickly become a national program benefiting thousands.

“I was teaching from the second book of James, somewhere around the 14th verse,” Trimble said. “To paraphrase, it says if you see someone in need of food and clothing and you say, ‘I will pray for you,’ what good have you really done that person. I told the class that that’s what the churches were doing. So we started working on the homes of some of the women of the church.”

With help from the Park Center YMCA, Trimble and his volunteers repaired 17 homes during October 1973. But the group operated without a name.

“Vic Rogers got a tape recorder and started interviewing the residents of the homes we were working on,” Trimble said. “One elderly woman said, ‘Lordy, it was just like Christmas.’ The name stuck and it grew from there.”

Over the next 27 years the program repaired over 4,900 homes and spawned over 250 Christmas In April programs in cities across the United States. Gov. Bill Clements and President Ronald Reagan honored Trimble’s deeds.

But an oversight on Trimble’s part would prove troublesome in 2000.

“I never registered the name,” Trimble said. “I didn’t know I needed to.”

At the end of 2000 Christmas In April changed its name to Rebuilding Together. The national president at the new Rebuilding Together registered the name “Christmas In April” and informed Trimble, a board member at the time, that he was to stop using the name.

Trimble split-off from his former brain-child and began the new Christmas In Action.

“They lost sight of the Christian purpose,” Trimble said in a video shown during the dinner.

A receptionist at Rebuilding Together’s Washington, D.C., headquarters said no one with the organization was available to comment Friday afternoon.

The board had decided they would remove the Christian aspect in an attempt to please unhappy parties involved in the organization.

“It ticked me off pretty good,” Trimble said.

But the group learned from its mistakes and moved on, he said.

“We didn’t miss a lick,” Trimble said. “We continued to serve 300-400 families a year. Since May 1 we’ve helped over 150 families in Midland County.”

Peter Svendsen, who started Cleburne’s Christmas In April in 1999 and was president of the board for six years, was excited to have Trimble as a guest to the city.

“Cleburne is a wonderful Christian-based community,” Svendsen said, “and they come out with the love of Christ in their hearts.”

Svendsen explained how the Cleburne board voted to change the name to keep the Christian purpose in the forefront of its work.

“This program works because people give and give, and help and help,” Svendsen said. “The true love of Jesus Christ is charity.”

In addition to the name change, the national organization of Rebuilding Together charged dues to its branches.

“That’s the first thing we decided,” Trimble said about starting the new organization. “We don’t charge dues. In most small communities the money for dues can be used to rebuild a house. We just required the volunteer insurance for workers. We also try to keep the paperwork down.”

Trimble explained that anyone can start a Christmas In Action program in any community.

“Each program is autonomous,” Trimble said. “We don’t tell them how to run their program, we just make sure they run a good one.”

There are 14 Christmas in Actions in the country, 10 of which are in Texas.

Because the organizations have no paid employees, require no dues and do not hold costly conventions like Rebuilding Together, money goes farther with Christmas In Action.

“Every dollar we get I can turn into four,” Svendsen said. “And the people we help, get 95 cents of every dollar.”

For information, call Cleburne Christmas In Action at 817-641-8610.



Kyle P. Whitecotton can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2336, or reporter2@trcle.com.

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