But Mary (not her real name) did not appear to be in desperate straits. She appeared to be a comfortable woman in her mid-60’s who had always been able to earn enough to pay the bills and provide for her family.
The caseworker was curious as Mary approached to tell her story.
Mary said she had always led a respectable life and taught her own children to be respectable. But a few months ago, she was awarded custody of three children because their mother had been sentenced to a long prison term. All three of the children were under the age of 10.
Mary knew that becoming a mother to young children was going to be hard, but she had no idea how neglected these children were. They were used to sleeping in cars, not bedrooms. They had not slept in a bed. They had not been taught table manners. Worst of all, they were extremely malnourished.
When they first came to Mary a few months ago, they wolfed down every morsel of food in the house. It took all off Mary’s pension to provide the food they craved and the clothing and other things they needed.
Fortunately, the children have all had growth spurts, and they are beginning to catch up with other children their age. They are also eating more normally and learning manners.
But that is just one example of how much mothering Mary is going to have to give these neglected children. She has thought carefully about how she can accomplish everything and she believes she has devised a sustainable solution.
Unfortunately, the solution does not provide very much for this Christmas.
The children probably wouldn’t miss it much, because they have never had a real Christmas anyway. But Mary wants this Christmas for them because they have already been so neglected in their young lives and she would like it to be the first of many Merry Christmases for them.
Now in its 38th season, the Christmas Box provides all the makings of a Christmas dinner and several additional meals for families of three or more people and $30 grocery shopping gift certificates for seniors who live along and small households of one or two people.
The food distribution is made possible entirely by monetary gifts from individuals, churches, businesses and clubs, grocers and food producers who donate or discount their products for the Christmas Box, and key project partners including Second Harvest Food Bank.
For those who wish to help with the distribution, the Christmas Box is a 501(c)3 organization and all donations are tax deductible.
Because the Johnson City Press covers all administrative costs for the project, 100 percent of all donations are used to buy food.
Donations may be made online at jcpchristmasbox.com or by mail to P.O. Box 1387, Johnson City, TN 37605.
More information about the Christmas Box can be found at the website or at the Johnson City Press Christmas Box page on Facebook, or may be obtained by calling Press Staff Writer Sue Guinn Legg at 423-722-0538.