Working family hopes this will be the last Christmas they need help

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 18, 2018 at 7:40 PM

Down a rural road at the base of a mountain in Unicoi County, there is an aging mobile home under renovation by a construction-working father, his wife and two fast-growing boys.

James and Kelly (not their real names) knew the trailer needed work when they bought it and they’ve taken pride in each of the improvement projects they’ve completed, doing the work themselves and paying as they go for materials.

It’s happy home and they love it. But the work on the mobile home needs seems unending. So season after season they stay at it.

They were replacing their floors this fall when a gall bladder infection sent James on a midnight ambulance ride to the hospital. He had just started a new job and and could not afford the medical bills or the lost wages being laid up had cost him.

When Kelly came to sign up for Christmas gifts for the boys from the Salvation Army Angel Tree and food for their Christmas dinner from the Johnson City Press Christmas Box, they were late on their house payment and power bill and only one of their cars was running. They had gotten help with their power bill the previous month and had also qualified for food stamps.

James, who was going out daily to look for a job while he waited for his boss to work him back into his spot on his regular crew, stayed home that afternoon while Carolyn took the car for the run to Johnson City that would assure their boys would have a Christmas.

Kelly herself had not been able to work regularly for nearly two years due to a misdiagnosed medical condition her doctors had only recently figured out. And she was waiting for a decision on a TennCare appeal for coverage of the surgery she had needed all along.

Their boys are big and growing fast, Kelly told me. They eat a lot and she is constantly cooking. And because they live in the mountains, they will soon need more groceries than usual for the snow days the boys will be out of school and eating their morning and noon meals at home. The extra groceries that come with the Christmas Box are going to come in handy, she said.

Considering all, Kelly said, “I can’t complain.” The boys are healthy and bright. James is a hard worker. Their house payment is reasonable and in a few years their home will paid for. She hopes next Christmas they will be able to help others.

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 alone 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.

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