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Rescue Fund works to lift struggling families for Christmas

J. H. Osborne • Nov 10, 2013 at 4:43 PM

For many families in our region, the struggle to keep food on the table is ongoing, be it Christmas or not.

Unfortunately, their focus all too often is a daily one to keep the basics on the table. No extras. No leftovers.

Will there be anything to eat, special or not, come Christmas dinner? Or will it be just another day of “getting by” — or going hungry?

For many families across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, the Christmas season brings no relief from a daily concern: having enough food to get through the month, week, or even the day.

The struggle for the basics far outweighs and undoubtedly obscures any thought of the traditional holiday extras come mealtime.

The Times-News Rescue Fund, which aims to put a little extra food on the holiday tables of some of the region’s less fortunate families, begins today.

Times-News Managing Editor Ted Como, who heads up the Rescue Fund, said the effort’s main goal is to offer hope.

It demonstrates to the neediest families in the region that folks care about them, that others are willing to help see them through tough times, Como said on Friday.

“People helping others, regardless of their own circumstances, is a unique quality in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee,” Como said. “We’ve seen it with the Rescue Fund consistently for years. Folks here do all they can to help their neighbors.”

Como said the newspaper’s readers have long proved the generosity of the communities throughout the region.

That spirit is evidenced each Christmas season by continued support for the Rescue Fund, Como said.

“We’re delighted that for the past two years, readers have contributed $60,000 to help needy families with groceries over the holidays, a record level of giving despite that the cost of most everything has increased,” Como said. “That, in turn, has allowed the Salvation Army to assist even more of the region’s neediest families.”

Years ago, the Times-News used Rescue Fund donations to purchase foodstuffs on bid and delivered them directly to families in six counties.

“Today, it’s just not possible to stage and deliver hundreds of boxes of food to an area that large,” Como said. “And by providing food vouchers, we save on the cost of boxes and other expenses, money that goes back to help people in need. In fact, every single penny donated to the Rescue Fund goes to those families. The Times-News assumes all overhead costs associated with the campaign and there are few such efforts that can make that claim. We’re very proud of that.

“The food vouchers are based on family size and while they don’t fill the refrigerator, they show these families that others in the community are concerned about them and want to help, that they’re not alone in their struggle to provide for their children. It’s heartwarming to see the response, every year, from this community. But that’s the nature of this region. Folks here are always willing to help others, even when they, themselves, have unmet needs.”

Rescue Fund families are screened by social services departments in Wise and Lee counties in Virginia and by the Salvation Army in Scott County, Va., and Sullivan and Hawkins counties in Tennessee.

The number of families seeking assistance through the Rescue Fund has risen by several hundred in just the past couple of years, according to Salvation Army officials. In 2008 the Rescue Fund served about 1,700 families; in 2009 and 2010 the number rose to over 1,900.

Last year the Salvation Army had a list of more than 2,200 families who needed help.

This year numbers are running about 100 families more.

The dollar amount of food vouchers has typically ranged from $20 to $55, based on the size of the family.

Most families served by the Rescue Fund range from three to four members. Last year, a family of three received a voucher for $25, while a family of four got a voucher worth $30.

The figures will be pretty much the same this year.

“It’s just to help supplement food for the holidays,” said Sarah Moody, office manager for the Salvation Army. “Without help from the Rescue Fund these families would not have anything extra for Christmas.”

Tax-deductible donations can be made to the Times-News Rescue Fund at P.O. Box 479, Kingsport, Tenn. 37662.

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