But Friday was also Johnson City Press Christmas Box distribution day at the Appalachian Fairgrounds, and Christmas Box Board Chairman Art Powers was in his usual distribution day post, directing traffic behind the fairgrounds’ Commercial Building No. 2.
Jolly work regardless of the weather, Christmas Box volunteers and a hard-working crew of trustys with the Washington County Detention Center’s Community Service Unit were running the holiday food box pickup line like clockwork when a woman who drove through the line in tears caught Powers’ attention.
As the trustys loaded her Christmas Box food, Powers said he spoke to the woman through her car window and was taken aback when she told him, “This is all my children are going to get this Christmas.”
“That right there makes all of this worth it,” he said as he continued waving cars to the rear bay door of the building. “When you can do that for just one person ...”
Christmas Box Board Member Tom Krieger said Powers and the volunteers and trustys were lined up to load a total of 638 food boxes for Washington and Unicoi county families in need on Friday.
Another 338 food boxes distributed to Carter County families on Wednesday and more than 600 food shopping gift certificates passed out to seniors and small households of one or two people brought this year’s total Christmas Box food distribution to more than 1,500 households.
The number included the families of 2,052 children in the three counties who received gifts of new clothing and toys from the Johnson City Salvation Army Angel Tree drive.
And as the Angel Tree and Christmas Box sign above the check-in table in the fair’s Commercial Building No. 1 read, all the gifts they they received “were made possible through the generous donations of the community.”
Salvation Army Capt. Michael Cox, who like Powers was in a right jolly mood on Friday, said that generosity is the reason he and his wife, Capt. Laura Cox, have come to love the Johnson City community so much.
“We truly have seen Johnson City at its best,” he said, explaining that not only were all of the more than 2,000 Angel Tree children adopted by shoppers, for the second year running a local business he could only identify as "the Secret Santa Company of Johnson City" had shopped for all the "forgotten angels" whose gifts were not turned in.
“We appreciate the outpouring of support we’ve received both in adoptions and in volunteers,” Cox said.
“We’ve seen a big increase in both over the past two years. And this year we have been blessed by a lot of new faces who came and saw the purpose and the importance of the work we are doing and stayed all day to help us.”
“The stories they are telling us are of the appreciation people express to them as they are loading the gifts into the their cars and the joy that it brings them just to know that. That’s why my wife and I enjoy this so much.”
Cox also expressed “a big thank you” to the fair and to sheriff’s department trustys who he said “help us from day one.”
“Without them, this would be impossible for us,” he said.
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.