The Johnson City Salvation Army’s Angel Tree project has experienced an early Christmas miracle.
For the first time in memory, all low-income children in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties registered for the Salvation Army’s help with gifts of toys and clothing for Christmas have been adopted by area shoppers in the first week of December.
With a record 2,719 children in the three-county area included in the project, or about 200 more than last Christmas, the Salvation Army’s staff and volunteers are joyous about local shopper response. The shoppers’ gifts for the children are coming back in much more slowly, however, and the Army is reminding everyone to bring their packages back to the trees or to the Angel Tree distributions sites in Elizabethton and Gray.
“They went out extra fast and they’re coming back extra slow,” Maj. Gary Elliott, commander of the Johnson City Salvation Army, said. “Our volunteers are waiting so we do want to remind people to bring them in.”
In Johnson City and Erwin, the names of 1,851 Angel Tree children from Washington and Unicoi counties were taken from the tree by shoppers before Dec. 1. In Elizabethton, the last 50 of 868 Carter County children included in the project were picked up by the Carter County Car Club on Monday.
“This is the earliest we’ve ever had them all picked up. It’s wonderful, just wonderful,” Mattie Mullins, a lead volunteer in the Angel Tree project said.
In Carter County, Maj. Janie Brewster, who is coordinating the Salvation Army Christmas outreach there, said the car club members were out shopping for their 50 Angels on Tuesday and were also purchasing new bicycles for the distribution.
Because “there will still be children who won’t get a lot” in their Angel Tree packages, Brewster invited others who wish to contribute to donate new clothing and toys to supplement their packages. Mullins said children’s clothing is also the greatest need at the Angel Tree distribution site in Gray.
Beginning Friday, Brewster said gifts for children adopted from Angel Trees in Elizabethton may also be dropped off at the distribution site located in the former Magic Mart building on West Elk Avenue, Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Angel Tree distribution site for Washington and Unicoi counties is once again located at the Appalachian Fair in Commercial Building No. 1. The distribution will be held Dec. 19 in Elizabethton and Dec. 20 and 21 at the fair. The deadline to turn in Angel Tree gifts is Dec. 17.
To provide the makings of a Christmas dinner to the families of each of the Angel Tree children and to hundreds of low-income seniors in the three-county area, the Johnson City Press Christmas Box is once again working in partnership with the Angel Tree project. This year’s Christmas Box will include a 10- to 12-pound turkey, a 7-pound ham, all the makings of a holiday meal and enough extra staples for several additional meals for families of three or more people, or a $30 grocery shopping gift card for seniors living alone and for households of one or two people.
For those who wish to help, tax deductible donations to the Johnson City Press Christmas Box of Northeast Tennessee may be made by mail to P.O. Box 1387, Johnson City, TN 37605. The newspaper covers all administrative costs of the project so that 100 percent of all monetary gifts go to the purchase of food.