Capt. Fallyn Garrison, corps officer for the Johnson City Salvation Army, said 95 percent of the boxes of gifts provided for the children by Angel Tree shoppers were very generous and the remaining 5 percent provided a very good base for the Salvation Arm
With a generous show of support from the community, gifts from the Salvation Army Angel Tree and food from the Johnson City Press Christmas Box were distributed to the families of 912 children from Washington and Unicoi counties who live at or near the federal poverty level Thursday at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray.
Capt. Fallyn Garrison, corps officer for the Johnson City Salvation Army, said 95 percent of the boxes of gifts provided for the children by Angel Tree shoppers were very generous and the remaining 5 percent provided a very good base for the Salvation Army to supplement with outfits of clothing and toys for each of the children.
“Some of these kids had three boxes each,” she said with admiration for the shoppers’ efforts.
Art Powers, chairman of the nonprofit Christmas Box, was likewise pleased with the support shown for the newspaper’s 33rd annual holiday food distribution.
“It’s another great day, a lot of people coming through and a lot of happy faces,” Powers said Thursday morning as the food boxes went out at a pace of about 100 per hour. “We appreciate everybody who contributed and all the volunteers here helping.”
Powers said the food boxes weighed an average of 66 pounds this year, “which is probably our biggest ever.” A box included 46 canned and boxed food items, a 12- to 16- pound turkey, a 3-pound canned ham, 10 pounds of potatoes and 3 pounds of onions.
Community donations to the project have exceeded the more than $75,000 cost of the food and will give the program a good start on food purchases for next year’s boxes, Powers said.
Appreciation from parents receiving the Christmas food and gifts also welled over.
“I didn’t want to do this; I’d rather be giving,” a 37-year-old Washington County mother with five children in the Angel Tree program said. “I got my (nursing) license on Halloween but I still can’t find a job and I have so many kids who would be heartbroken not to have any Christmas. Next year, I really hope I can be on the giving end.
“To know there are so many people in this community who care enough about children to do this really means a lot to me. It means the world. They even gave us a Christmas basket of food. I am so thankful my kids are going to wake up Christmas morning and have everything they need.”
In broken English, a Jonesborough mother of three Angel Tree children who struggled to understand this reporter’s questions said simply, “Very helpful.”
Distribution of Angel Tree gifts and Christmas Box food for the families of 502 Carter County children who meet the programs’ income-level criteria will be held Saturday at the National Guard Armory in Elizabethton.
Garrison said while all 2,827 children in the three-county area included in the project were adopted from the Angel Trees this year, gifts for 240 children, or about 10 percent, were not returned to the trees.
She said the percentage of “forgotten angels” is comparable to other corps where she has served but required the local Salvation Army to spend abut $10,000 shopping for clothing and toys to provide gift boxes for all of the children.
“That came out of our budget to help people throughout the year. To help us now, people can always put money in our kettles, which are down a little, or write us a check that will help families like these all year.”