Christmas In Action...Through the Years
(Formerly Christmas in April)
It grew from an idea the size of a mustard seed into a national program that helps
thousands each year.
The seeds for Christmas in April 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 neighbor 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 seed 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 repair of a few
elderly residents in the area.
Human Relations Council Executive director, Dick Schmidt, Park Center Executive
Director, Bruce Stories, and Park Center Board Member Vic Rogers took charge of
publicity and fund raising for this event. Bobby Trimble and other volunteers surveyed
applicants' homes deciding which repairs would be done. In October 1973, 17 homes
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 to do another
project in six months, putting the annual workday in April.
In 1974, during an interview with a female recipient, Vic Rogers asked what she
thought of the program. She replied, "Lordy, it was just like Christmas." At the next
meeting of all involved they unanimously agreed to call the program, "Christmas in
That year they lost the help of Stories, who left Midland to pursue his career in another
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 non-profit status. Dick Schmidt and Vic
Rogers continued to handle fund raising and publicity. Roosevelt Campbell with the
HRC, and Trimble surveyed prospective CIA applicants.
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. CIA lost the help of Dick
Schmidt who returned to Presbyterian ministry and moved to Lamesa.
In the spring of 1976, Trimble surveyed the home of Mrs. Lillian Friday. She was living
in an 8 X 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 St. 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 home, and three lots. He sold these properties and purchased
a 2,800 sq. ft. structure which was 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 Clement's office as a
candidate for the Governor's Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. Trimble was
presented the award by Mrs. Bill Clements at a dinner in Austin, Texas. This award
launched the Christmas in April program into national recognition.
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 of how to start a CIA program in a
community. They knew that there was a need for a national program, but they did not
have the funding or the know-how to get one started.
Mrs. Bill Clements 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 the 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 Friday before the CIA workday. 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 to talk about the program and all the people who were 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.
In 1983, Armbrister convinced his church in Washington, D.C., to start a Christmas in
April program. Trimble and Armbrister spent many hours on the phone discussing step
by step implementation.
Trimble was asked to present the CIA program to Cisco, Big Spring, Pecos, Odessa, and
Wichita Falls, Texas. The Midland program expanded into helping with emergency
plumbing and heating repairs year-round.
Also, in 1983, Mayor Thane Akins, and the Midland City Council approached Trimble
about applying to HUD (through Christmas in April), to build an apartment complex to
house low-income elderly. HUD would only accept applications from nonprofit
programs with excellent reputations in the community. The application was accepted,
and the local CIA board set up a nonprofit organization called Langtry Village. The new
five story, 85 unit building was completed in May 1986, for three million dollars. The
CIA board continues to oversee this property and Trimble has been President since
The need for a national program was becoming critical if CIA was to spread throughout
the U.S. Trimble was limited to reaching only cities in Texas. A national program could
be a clearing house whereby interested parties from all over the country could receive
vital information on starting a CIA program. Trimble spoke with Armbrister and he
began to put the wheels in motion.
After Armbrister's intense work and contacts, Christmas in April, USA was kicked off in
1988, with the help of Steve Winchell, John McMeel and Bobby Trimble. Steve Winchell
loaned the new program $10,000.00 to get it 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 the first
In the summer of 1988, Trimble was contacted by the city about its plans to widen
Lamesa Road. Christmas in April would be forced to vacate its warehouse by December
31, 1988. (The warehouse was on the northwest corner of Lamesa Rd. and E. New York).
The city agreed to purchase the property for $25,000.00. Trimble began to look in the
surrounding area for new space, but none was available. He contacted Mr. John Evans
who owned a condemned apartment complex one block away from the existing
warehouse. The complex consisted of three buildings 28' wide by 104' long. One
building had been burned in the middle. Mr. Evans sold Christmas in April the property
and three adjoining lots for $1.00.
Hundreds of volunteer hours went into rebuilding the new warehouse. They tore down
the burned structure and materials that were salvageable were used to restore the other
two buildings. (For example, the 2 X 8's were used to construct trusses for two gable
roofs.) The new warehouse had 7,000 sq. ft. and was completed in April 1989 for
1989 to 2010
In 1995, Christmas in April purchased 5 lots north of the warehouse at an auction for
$3,800.00. In 1996, a 50' X 100' metal building was constructed on the new property
for additional material storage. In the summer of 2001, a 40' X 100' metal building was
built on the same property. This new building would be used for storage and window
The program continued to grow as well as the need for year 'round services. Christmas
in April began to meet emergency needs throughout the year such as heaters, water
heaters, sewer gas lines, wheelchair ramps, roofs, and miscellaneous plumbing repairs.
The program also continued to grow nationwide, as well as a program start in New
In the spring of 2000, Christmas in April USA voted to change its name to Rebuilding
Together. Reasons given by national for the change were - the word "Christmas" was
offensive to some, and the Christmas in April name did not adequately explain what the
program did. Feeling that the national office had lost site of the Christmas in April
mission and its roots, the Midland Board of directors voted to resign from the national
program on August 22, 2000. Midland could continue to use the Christmas in April
name, but because the national office had trademarked the name, Mr. Trimble was
prohibited from starting any new Christmas in April programs.
Wanting to continue the mission and vision of Christmas in April, and keep the word
"Christmas" in the name, on January 29, 2001, the Midland Board of directors voted to
change its name to CHRISTMAS IN ACTION.
Since its inception, Christmas in Action (formerly Christmas in April) has repaired over
8,000 homes. More than 47,000 volunteers have given their time and talents to help
the elderly and disabled in the community. Thousands have given unselfishly 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 into a
thriving program and will hopefully become another nationwide movement!
Christmas in Action officially comes to Fairborn, Ohio.
12 houses worked on.
14 houses worked on.
16 houses worked on.
11 houses worked on and 175 volunteers showed up.
Click here to view photos.