Editor’s Note: The Salvation Army is partnering with the Johnson City Press Christmas Box again this year to provide holiday food to the families of each of the more than 2,700 low-income children in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties included in its Angel Tree shopping adoption project and to hundreds of area seniors who are also in need of food. The following story is another in a series on the hardships those families are facing this Christmas and what a difference contributors to the holiday projects will make in their homes.
Rebecca’s family is Jewish and will celebrate Hanukkah this year from Dec. 20-28. Like many Jewish parents, Rebecca and her husband include gift giving in their eight-night Festival of Lights celebration to prevent their children from feeling left out or envious of the gifts their Christian friends look forward to at Christmas.
At their house, the tradition is to give one gift to each child on each night of the celebration. Multiplied by three daughters that’s 24 gifts the girls would not receive this year but for generosity of the Salvation Army's Angel Tree shoppers.
For their festival’s feast, Rebecca plans to deep fry the turkey they receive from the Johnson City Christmas Box, in keeping with both the fried food traditions of Hanukkah and her own Cajun heritage. The 10 pounds of potatoes that come with the Christmas Box will ensure their latkes, the beloved fried potato pancakes of Hanukkah, will be plentiful. With that, Rebecca expects their holiday will be bountiful. And for a family that falls squarely in the economic category known as the working poor, she considers it a blessing.
“It takes every dime we bring in just to keep food on the table for the girls and to pay our bills,” she said.
The $1,300 in monthly wages her husband brings home from his full-time job and the $400 in monthly disability benefits they receive for their oldest daughter, brings their total monthly income to $1,700. For a family of five, that total qualifies them for $200 in monthly food stamps. Between the oldest child’s disability and the serious illness another child has suffered since September, their health care costs have been considerable.
The good news is that a new medication the child began two week ago seems to be working. Since their move to Tennessee from southern Mississippi two years ago, their oldest appears to be thriving in the region’s cooler climate.
And there is one more blessing Rebecca is counting on this Hanukkah — the help they receive from the Angel Tree and Christmas Box will allow them to use the money they would have spent on the holiday for an important trip out of state. The week after Christmas, the family will travel south to see the girls’ grandfather before his January deployment to the Middle East.
Contributions to the Christmas Box will help provide food for the holiday to an estimated 1,900 low-income households this year, including 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 a family of three or more people, or a grocery shopping gift card for households of one or two people.
Donations to the Christmas Box are tax deductible and because the newspaper covers all administrative costs of the project, 100 percent of all monetary gifts go directly to the purchase of food. For those who wish to help, donations may be made 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.