Christmas Box: Project making spirits bright

John Thompson • Dec 19, 2012 at 8:33 PM

ELIZABETHTON — A lot of Christmases will be a lot brighter in Carter County this year, thanks to the thousands of dollars in donations over the past month and the hard work of over 50 volunteers on Wednesday.

Wednesday was distribution day for the 396 Johnson City Christmas Boxes, the 311 certificates for $35 in food, and the Salvation Army packages of toys and clothes for 899 angels. The distribution for Washington and Unicoi County residents will be today from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Appalachian Fairgrounds.

On Tuesday in Carter County the pace was quick for the volunteers as they collected the food boxes for the needy families and the boxes for each angel. All of the preparations came together perfectly and the lines kept moving. But the needs were so great this year, that despite the fast pace the line kept getting longer. Workers counted over 110 people waiting in line at 10 a.m.

“We have some wonderful volunteers,” said Christmas Box Board Member Martha Laws. “We have everyone from a sixth-grader to an 83-year-old lady.”

She said many of the volunteers came from First Baptist Church and from the Carter County Car Club.

She said the car club makes an annual donation toward providing bicycles for the boys and girls.

This has been a tough economic year and it has reflected in some of the giving.

Art Powers, Christmas Box Board Chairman, said the donations from Carter County are down this year “but they have really picked up in the last week. We are still shy of last year’s totals ... We will have to take a look at it when the board meets in January.”

Laws said there were also problems with the Angel Tree program this year. She said some people took angels and then failed to provide the gifts. “This is the first year this has happened,” Laws said. Fortunately, the Salvation Army was able to make packages for the forgotten angels.

A large portion of the breach was filled by the Johnson City Rotary Club, Powers said. The club had collected over 150 toys for the Marine Toys for Tots Campaign, but Powers said the Marines were not able to collect the bundle at the club’s meeting at noon on Tuesday and so the Salvation Army was called. The Salvation Army quickly came to get the toys for the forgotten angels.

“This was just a God-sent opportunity,” Powers said.

The result is that despite some of the most difficult challenges in the history of the Johnson City Press Christmas Box and the Salvation Army Angel Tree, every needy family who applied will have a nutritious and festive holiday meal this year and every angel will have new toys and clothes to brighten their spirits.

The Johnson City Press Christmas Box continues to raise money for the cost of the food, which was $20,000 higher this year. Donors who wish to help may make tax deductible donations by mail to the Johnson City Press Christmas Box, P.O. Box 1387, Johnson City, TN 37605.

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