The Salvation Army Angel Tree shopping adoption program for more than 2,700 low-income children in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties in need of gifts of toys and clothing for Christmas is under way.
Angel Trees decorated with the paper ornaments bearing the children’s first name, clothing sizes and gift wishes went up Friday at The Mall at Johnson City, Walmart stores, Sandy’s Jewel Box and Verizon Wireless locations in Johnson City, and at Walmart, FATZ restaurant and several banks in Elizabethton.
At kickoff ceremonies held at the mall and at Walmart in Elizabethton, Johnson City Salvation Army Captain Nick Garrison opened the project with requests for the communities’ help. Recalling the story of the first Christmas gifts given by three wise men, Garrison said, “We need wise men and women ... We need your help to shop for these children.”
Local shoppers astonished the Salvation Army last year by adopting each of the record 2,719 children included in the 2011 project before Dec. 1. This year there are 2,716 Angel Tree children registered for gifts in three counties, and Garrison said he is anxious to see how the community responds to the need.
“I have heard so much about how this community steps up to help this project and I am looking forward to seeing the community step up to shop for these children,” Garrison said.
Friday also served as the official start of the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle bell-ringing campaign for donations to support local services year round, including the public kitchen and emergency shelter for homeless men, women and children that operate daily at the Salvation Army Center of Hope on Ashe Street.
Volunteer bell ringers will be needed through Christmas Eve at shopping centers across the area, and also at the Angel Tree registration tables in Johnson City through the Dec. 13 deadline for shoppers to drop off their gifts at the trees where the children were adopted. Anyone who wishes to help with either project is encouraged to call the Salvation Army at 926-2101.
In Carter County, Garrison said the volunteer response has already been impressive, with almost too many volunteers signing up.
“There were so many people who wanted to help,” Garrison said at the Elizabethton kickoff.
The project is once again being conducted in partnership with the annual Johnson City Press Christmas Box holiday food distribution in the three-county area that includes the families of every Angel Tree child registered and hundreds of area seniors.
Helping Garrison kick off the project in Carter County, Christmas Box Chairman Art Powers announced this year’s food boxes will include at total of 33 canned and boxed food items, a 12-pound turkey, a four-pound ham, 10 pounds of potatoes and three pounds of onions — enough to provided all the makings of a holiday meal and several additional meals for one family. For seniors who live alone and for households of one or two people, the project will provide a $35 grocery shopping gift card.
In Carter County, the sister projects will provide gifts to 890 Angel Tree children, 392 Christmas Box food boxes and 412 food shopping gift cards.
The Christmas Box food is made possible by community donations and the newspaper covers all of the project’s administrative cost. Powers said, “Every single dollar donated ... will be used to buy food.”
The Christmas Box is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit corporation and all contributions are tax-deductible. Donations to the Johnson City Press Christmas Box of Northeast Tennessee may be made by mail to P.O. Box 1387, Johnson City, TN 37605. For more information about the Christmas Box and how to help, call Ron Tipton at the Johnson City Press at 929-3111, ext. 302.