Chris, not his real name, has been battling a disabling heart condition since childhood. Now 24 years old with a young child of his own, the same chronic fatigue that knocked Chris out of his first and only season of Little League baseball has knocked him out of the job market.
In fall 2011, Chis was awarded permanent disability benefits of just less than $700 a month and a retroactive settlement that allowed him to seek and win custody of his infant son, Jacob. “I got some back pay and the first thing I did was get my son back,” he said.
By Christmas, Chris and Jacob were set up in a rental home of their own in rural Washington County. And Chris had plenty to spend on gifts from Santa to go with those that came to Jacob from his grandparents, uncles and aunts.
This year, Chris said, “I have a lot of bills. My rent is $400. I’ve got electricity and water. I have a phone that’s $45 a month but I have to have a phone. Then there’s diapers and gas and I’m broke.”
While he has managed to put back some money for Christmas shopping for Jacob, who will be 2 by the time Santa arrives this year, Chris has been through a couple of new health issues that have also come at a cost. Bleeding ulcers and an irritable bowel condition have put him in the hospital repeatedly since last Christmas. And the new clothes and action figure wrestlers, Power Rangers and Toy Story videos he hopes to buy for Jacob will not come cheap.
So for this Christmas, he said, the gifts his son receives from the Angel Tree and the extra groceries he will buy with the $35 food shopping gift card the Christmas Box provides will come in great.
“It will make a difference to know my son has stuff for Christmas that he’ll enjoy,” he said.
For those who wish to help, a $35 donation to the Christmas Box will provide all the makings of a holiday meal, including a 12-pound turkey, a 4-pound ham and enough extra staples for several additional meals for one family, or a $35 grocery shopping gift card for a senior or a household of one or two people.
The Christmas Box is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit corporation and all contributions are tax deductible. The newspaper covers all administrative costs of the project, so that 100 percent of all donations go directly to the purchase of food. Donations may be mailed to the Johnson City Press Christmas Box of Northeast Tennessee, P.O. Box 1387, Johnson City, TN 37605. For more information about how to help with the Christmas Box, call Ron Tipton at the Johnson City Press at 929-3111, ext. 302.
Salvation Army Angel Trees decorated with paper ornaments bearing the first names, clothing sizes and gift wishes of local children in need can be found outside JC Penney at The Mall at Johnson City, at both Walmart stores, Sandy’s Jewel Box and Verizon Wireless locations in Johnson City and at Walmart, FATZ restaurant and several banks in Elizabethton. Unwrapped gifts for the children are due back at the trees by Dec. 13. For more information on how to help with the Angel Tree, call the Salvation Army at 926-2101.