It’s all about making children happy.
The holidays are around the corner, which means it’s time for Donna Lawson to make her yearly candy calendars for the children in her life – and others.
Lawson said the kids she has made calendars for in the past have grown and have children of their own, but they still want a calendar for themselves.
“(Parents) are so excited when the kids get them, and they always want one for themselves,” she said.
Since 1968, Lawson has created over 1,300 calendars for children and adults, and she has kept meticulously-written records of each one for a singular reason.
“The smiles I get (from children) are what makes it worth it,” Lawson said. “It’s a labor of love.”
The idea for her candy calendars came in 1966 when a neighbor brought one each for her two children while living in Pomona, California. The neighbor made and sold the calendar to raise funds for a cystic fibrosis charity.
After two married couples who attended a church group Lawson and her husband supervised brought free candy calendars originally made for a fundraiser, Lawson started making them for her children, as well as for friends in her neighborhood.
“When we moved to San Diego (in 1970), I started making them for our married couples fellowship, and most of the couples had children,” said Lawson, who moved to Tennessee with her family in 1987. “It’s grown over the years – and now I do it for the next generation. The children I made them for now have children of their own.”
Lawson uses poster board and looks at the calendar to see when Dec. 1 falls to make the candy calendar accurate. After gluing on a donated Christmas card, she then individually wraps each piece of candy and glues them onto each space representing a day on the calendar.
She then glues on a candy cane when the calendar fall on Christmas, which covers the remaining days of December. Lawson wraps about 1,200 pieces of candy each year for her calendars.
At the beginning, Lawson used hard candies for her calendar.
Currently, she uses soft chocolate candy for her projects. There are 24 bowls of candy representing each day of the month and an equal number of candy canes, with special attention to any food allergies a child might have.
“In the early days, I would get a large poster board and cut them into four 11 by 14 pieces. For years, I did that, but now I just by the pre-sized pieces,” Lawson said. “I have to find a master calendar to see where Dec. 1 falls on. From there, I then start wrapping the candy and I glue them on the poster board.
“My guest room is loaded with bowls of candy. I have no bowls left in the kitchen.”
In 1993, two of the families the Lawsons became close to, the Prices and Davises, moved to Dagestan (a republic under Russian control) to start a church. Donna created calendars for each of the eight children the families had combined, and sent them with a family friend who was heading to Europe for a visit.
“I told the mothers to keep the calendars, and the next year, I sent the wrapped candy and candy canes for them to glue on them for the kids,” she said. “The eight kids never missed a candy calendar until they aged out.”
The first calendars made are for delivery throughout the Lakeway Area. The last ones Lawson makes are mailed out to five families all over the country – and beyond.
“It is expensive to mail them, but it’s worth the joy the kids get from them,” said Lawson, who has been employed at the BEGIN AGAIN SHOPPE in Morristown since 2003 after previously working there in the late 1980s. “We get phone pictures of them with their calendars.
“It’s always a big relief when it’s done.”
As Lawson’s calendars have grown in popularity, the number of requests for them has increased over the last few years.
“The number has steadily risen. Over the past five years, I have made 50 calendars each year,” she said.