ELIZABETHTON — Work has started to make sure even the neediest of Carter County’s families will be able to enjoy a Christmas feast this year and that Santa Claus does not forget any boy or girl.
The kickoff of the Elizabethton/Carter County Christmas Assistance Program was held Tuesday morning in the lobby of the Elizabethton Wal-Mart. Representatives from the Johnson City Press Christmas Box Program of Northeast Tennessee, the Salvation Army, the Nonprofit and Social Services Committee of the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce, Hales Community Ministries and Elizabethton Walmart managers were on hand to begin spreading the word about how the public can help.
Jim Royston, pastor of First Baptist Church and chairman of the Nonprofit and Social Services Committee, reminded everyone that Christmas celebrates the gift of Jesus Christ to the world and he called for the community “to share the same spirit of Christmas with hundreds of families in Carter County.”
Royston said even though this is the kickoff, many of the workers have been at work on the program for the entire year to make sure everything goes smoothly. More volunteers are joining now that Christmas is quickly approaching.
Royston said there is a greater need this year than last year. He said there are 844 families in Carter County in need of Christmas Box food baskets and food certificates and 865 children who have been included in the Salvation Army Angel Tree program.
Art Powers, Johnson City Press publisher, said this is the 31st year for the Christmas Box program and the second year it has been in partnership with Carter County agencies. He said the numbers in need have grown in the past year. He said there is now $14,000 in the fund for the Christmas boxes. Last year, the program spent more than $50,000 to purchase the food baskets for Carter, Washington and Unicoi families.
That cost was covered entirely by donations from 752 contributors. A majority of the donations came in small amounts, which made the project “even more meaningful for so many people,” Powers said.
For those who wish to help this year, a $35 donation to the Christmas Box will provide a box of food, which Powers said will weigh around 67 pounds. It includes a turkey, a 7-pound smoked ham, 10 pounds of potatoes, three pounds of onions, the makings of a complete holiday meal and enough extras for several additional meals for one family. Powers said the box will also contain yams, thanks to a recent donation of more than 2,000 cans by Stanley Dunbar of Moody Dunbar Inc.
Food certificates will be provided to small families with one or two people.
Maj. Jayne Brewster is the associate corps officer in Johnson City and the director of the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program in the region. Just as the number of families needing food has grown, so have the number of boys and girls being helped in Carter County, she said.
Each Carter County child in the program has an angel ornament bearing his or her name and information, such as sizes and wishes of the child. The ornaments are displayed at the Elizabethton Walmart, the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce, First Baptist Church and at the Elizabethton Star.
Brewster said donors can search through the ornaments to find a boy or girl whose needs most appeal to the donor.
When an angel is adopted, it will give the children the opportunity to receive a new, unwrapped toy this Christmas. Each angel should be sponsored for a minimum of $50 to $75 and should include an outfit, coat or shoes, large toy and smaller stocking toys.
The Christmas Box is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit corporation and all contributions are tax deductible. Because the Press 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. Donations can also be sent to 1301 Arney St., Elizabethton, TN 37644, made out to the Christmas Box. For more information about the Christmas Box and how to help, call Ron Tipton at the Press at 929-3111, ext. 302.
Toys will be collected on Mondays and Fridays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the old Magic Mart building from Dec. 2-16. Toys and food boxes will be given away during the Christmas Cheer distribution on Dec. 19.