The Christmas billboard ladies bring back their message


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CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS - Judi Hanna - Joanne Brown - Pat See and Linda Bennet - in front of the billboard on Mahoning Ave. in Youngstown.

NILES — Friendship, faith and fortitude shared by five women add up to a powerful force.

The friends, all Christians, think it’s important to send a simple but potent message with the wish of Merry Christmas. The concept is meaningful at this season but the women hope it stays in people’s hearts year-round.

The Merry Christmas Billboard Ladies — Joanne Brown of Poland, and Linda Bennett of Niles, Judi Hanna of Boardman, Laurie Kramer of Youngstown and Pat See of Canfield — are making a return engagement — just like Christmas.

They’re back in a bigger way than their initial foray last year in spreading the message of Merry Christmas. Their grass-roots effort has gained momentum mostly by word of mouth.

Last Christmas season the women raised $2,800 and paid for four billboards with the messages: “I miss hearing you say Merry Christmas” and “Why have you stopped saying Merry Christmas?” Both were signed Jesus.

In 2008, the billboard ladies started with $1,600 in donations. In 2007 and 2008, the group collected just under $6,000 for billboards. The funds enabled them to pay for seven billboards this year with the messages: “I miss hearing you say Merry Christmas” and “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas.” Again, both signed Jesus.

Read more in Thursday’s Vindicator and Vindy.com

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