The Elizabethton National Guard Armory was the first distribution point this year for the Johnson City Press Christmas Boxes and Salvation Army Angel Trees.
Large boxes filled with lots of food, toys and other needs were stacked high all around the assembly floor. Volunteers moved quickly, matching the names on the boxes with the families who had just arrived to receive these gifts of love from the community.
There were 298 Johnson City Press Christmas Boxes filled to the brim with enough boxed and canned food to last an average family for a few weeks during the holidays. Part of the bounty was a half of a large smoked ham, a 10-pound bag of potatoes, and a 3-pound bag of onions placed beside the boxes on the shopping carts being wheeled into an assembly line by volunteers.
Besides the food boxes, the Salvation Army Angel Tree boxes were placed in the carts going to the boys and girls of the family. Each box was filled with the exact items the child had requested about a month earlier. The items had been selected and purchased by a family that had adopted the angel by selecting his or her list and then shopping for the items and finally delivering the items to the Salvation Army in time to be assembled for distribution.
“We had 389 Angel Tree families this year,” said Salvation Army Captain Michael Cox. “Out of those families, we had 610 Angels. We also had 213 families who only received the food.”
Cox said he was grateful for the partnership between the Salvation Army Angel Tree program and the Johnson City Press Christmas Box. He said he has worked in areas where there is no such partnership and the Salvation Army had to divide its efforts into both toys and food. He said it made him grateful for all that the Johnson City Press Christmas Box does.
The Johnson City Press Christmas Box has grown to be a regional charity. There were 298 Christmas Boxes distributed in Carter County this year. There were also 250 distributed to Johnson County and 200 to Unicoi County. Those numbers do not include the Washington County distribution, which takes place this week.
The work could only be accomplished through the efforts of volunteers. About 40 volunteers were at the Armory on Friday to accurately distribute the boxes to the families. The volunteers come from a lot of different places and many have been volunteering for many years. Churches like First Baptist of Elizabethton have long played an important role in the distribution.
Another longtime volunteer is Kaylee Hollifield, a Miss Teen US pageant winner who has been volunteering for Salvation Army projects for six years, since she was 9 years old.
The volunteers included many in a nursing class of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton by Sandy Barker at its Kingsport location. Her students have already completed their coursework and had assembled to help with the distribution. Among the nursing students and assistant instructors were: Amber Hubbard, Danielle Crabtree, Kimberly Langlotz, Victoria Ward, Holly Corum and Boahema Danquah, who held the record as being the volunteer who came from the most-distant home to help East Tennessee Families. Danquah is from Ghana.
As fast as the volunteers worked, the lines continued to form as needy families arrived and received the boxes. It was a demonstration that there is still a need for such volunteers and for the Johnson City Press Christmas Box and the Salvation Army Angel Tree programs.