This week the Salvation Army is distributing Angel Tree gifts to thousands of children in need across the Tri-Cities, including more than 2,700 children in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties. But sadly, with one in five children in Northeast Tennessee living in poverty, the need is much larger.
The good news is there were many other local groups who spent the holiday season gathering gifts for kids at risk of having none. And while contributors to the following projects by no means include all those who have given, it is a reflection of the spirit of the holiday that has prevailed throughout the community.
Including teenage siblings of the local Angel Tree children, Good Samaritan Ministries had 928 teens and children on its Christmas shopping list and will wrap up its distribution of gifts for each and every one of them today. While the ministry has enjoyed generous support for its Christmas outreach, like many holiday shoppers it has yet to cover the total cost.
On Wednesday, Good Samaritan had received sponsorships for 828 of its children and teens and was still seeking sponsorships for the remaining 100. More than $47,400 had been donated toward the $52,500 cost of the ministry’s holiday food distribution to 1,500 area households and the remaining $5,100 was still outstanding. The food distribution, which includes holiday food boxes for the families of each of the teens and children and prepared meals for seniors and others who are homebound, begins today and will continue through Christmas Eve.
Following today’s distribution, Good Samaritan will continue to provide gifts for children and food to families who were not registered for Christmas assistance and remain in emergency need. The need for donations of new toys, coats and food for the families also will continue and Phil Bachman Toyota will be among those who help Good Samaritan meet that need.
This afternoon, Phil Bachman, which spent the past month giving away oil changes in exchange for donations of new toys, coats and food, will present Good Samaritan with 200 new toys donated by its customers. And this afternoon it will deliver another 75 new toys to Coalition for Kids.
At the Coalition, where 270 children in Johnson City schools take part in free after-school and evening programing, there were 115 children not included in the Angel Tree, Good Samaritan’s Christmas outreach or individual family gift distributions conducted by their schools. Help for those children also has been generous.
Coalition for Kids received $100 child sponsorships for each of 96 children who took part in a special “Shopping for Others” outing last weekend at Walmart on Browns Mill Road. With the help of adult volunteers, each child was allowed to select and purchase a new outfit of clothing, shoes and a toy for themself, and a gift for one family member.
Alamite donated new coats for all 115 Coalition children who were without other Christmas assistance. AT&T employees delivered gift packages containing hats, scarves, gloves and lip balm for each of 270 children at the Coalition. Boone Trail Baptist Church stuffed Christmas stockings for all 270 children.
The staff and students at Ashley Academy and the national Pajama Program of New York donated pajamas for about 100 of the Coalition’s kids. Like Phil Bachman, the Johnson City Woman’s Club donated toys for the Coalition children who did not receive Shopping for Others sponsorships and also provided gifts for the family of a Coalition child whose parent is hospitalized.
In addition to hosting the Shopping for Others excursion, the Browns Mill Road Walmart also supplied beds, bedding and a large round of home furnishings for the family of a Coalition child who was homeless and newly back under their own roof.
At Telford United Methodist Church, the Handymen for Christ collected enough donations to provide new bikes and helmets for 76 Washington County schoolchildren who are expected to receive very little for Christmas.
The Johnson City Elks Lodge hosted a two-day Christmas “shoe party” at the Shoe Carnival store on Peoples Street in which 400 Washington County schoolchildren in need received new shoes, treats and a visit with Santa.
Food City and Coca-Cola partnered to donate $10,000 to the Johnia Berry Memorial Toy Drive that provides toys for children served by nonprofit organizations from Greeneville to Abingdon, Va.
Students at Ridgeview Elementary School in Gray partnered with their neighbors at the nearby Marine Corps Reserve Center to collect 600 new toys for the young patients at Niswonger Children’s Hospital.
And as they do every Christmas, local Marines distributed donations to their Toys for Tots drive to child service agencies across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, including the Johnson City Salvation Army and Good Samaritan Ministries.