The Johnson City Press today launches its 31st annual Christmas Box drive to provide a holiday meal to hundreds of area families and seniors in need.
This year the Christmas Box will once again be conducted in partnership with the Johnson City Salvation Army’s Angel Tree holiday shopping adoption program for children. Registration for both projects will begin this week.
Christmas Box and Angel Tree sign-up for low-income residents of Washington and Unicoi counties will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Salvation Army’s new Super Family Thrift Store located in the former Food City building at 2506 S. Roan St. Carter County families and seniors in need will be registered from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 24 and from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 25 at Oak Street Baptist Church, 804 Oak St., Elizabethton.
Last year, the Christmas Box provided holiday food to approximately 1,900 area households in need and will attempt to match that number this holiday season. The distribution includes large family food boxes complete with turkey, ham, all the makings of a holiday meal and several extra meals for families of three or more people, and $30 in food shopping gift certificates for seniors living alone and for households of one or two people.
The cost of this year’s Christmas Box distribution is estimated at $53,000 and appeal letters to past supporters of the project will go out this week.
Johnson City Press Publisher Art Powers said many of those who have donated food items and other in-kind gifts for the Christmas Box in past years have already pledged their support, beginning with the Temple Inland container company in Elizabethton, which is once again providing cardboard boxes for the distribution.
General Mills has again pledged some two tons of flour for food boxes. Stan Dunbar, of the Moody Dunbar company in Chuckey, has pledged 120 cases of sweet potatoes. Second Harvest Food Bank and Food City stores are again playing a major role in food procurement and special food pricing for the project. The Appalachian Fair will allow the Salvation Army and Johnson City Press to use its exhibit buildings for the two-day distribution, planned for Washington and Unicoi county residents on Dec. 20 and 21.
In Carter County, Hales Community Ministries and the Elizabethton Chamber of Commerce will play a leading role in the Angel Tree and Christmas Box drives and in the gift and food distribution planned for Dec. 19 at the former Magic Mart building on West Elk Avenue in Elizabethton.
Gift shopping food certificates will be distributed this year from the Press offices in Johnson City and Elizabethton and at the fairgrounds for Washington and Unicoi county residents who are also receiving Angel Tree gifts.
“We have our list of (40 to 45) items for the box and it looks like it’s going to be as good or better than it has ever been,” Powers said. “It’s a bunch.
“The goal is $50,000, which will take care of thousands of people. We’re beginning our appeal to send out the call for contributions. We have a very able cadre of volunteers to take care of the Carter County distribution. And as tough as times are for many people, I’m confident this community will again step forward with their generosity and help our effort to reach over 1,900 families,” Powers said.
Last year, the cost of the Christmas Box food was covered entirely by donations that came from 752 individual contributors. Powers said most of the donations came in small amounts which made the project “even more meaningful for so many people.”
For those who wish to help this year, a $35 donation to the Christmas Box will provide a large box of food, including a turkey, a 7-pound smoked ham, 10 pounds of potatoes, 3 pounds of onions, the makings of a complete holiday meal and enough extras for several additional meals for one family. The Christmas Box is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit corporation and all contributions are tax deductible. Because the newspaper covers all administrative costs of the project and all labor is donated by volunteers, all monetary gifts 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 the Christmas Box and how to help, call Ron Tipton at the Press at 929-3111, ext. 302.
Low-income families and seniors who wish to register for the Christmas Box and Angel Tree projects should bring photo identification for the person submitting the application, Social Security numbers for all members of their household, proof of residence, proof of income and proof of expenses.
Last year the Salvation Army served a record 1,926 families during the Christmas season, including 2,570 Angel Tree children, residents of 14 area nursing homes and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home for a total outreach to 5,412 individuals. Still, Maj. Patty Elliott said, many others who requested help were turned away, not because of a lack of financial support from the community but because of lack of manpower to handle the 50 to 100 calls for assistance that came daily in the weeks leading up to the distribution.
“We have wonderful volunteers but the demand is just so astronomical it keeps all of us all hopping,” she said.
Elliott invited volunteers who wish to help the Salvation Army with this year’s Christmas outreach to call 926-2101 for more information.