Johnson City Press: TLC Community Center ready to host children for Christmas celebration
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TLC Community Center ready to host children for Christmas celebration

John Thompson • Dec 18, 2018 at 8:17 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Christmas comes early to the TLC Community Center at 145 Judge Don Lewis Blvd. in the Watauga Industrial Park. The center will be celebrating on Friday from 4-7 p.m. The times are simply the range when the food and gifts will be served. Boys and girls are welcome to come whenever they want during that time and stay for as long or as short as they like.

All children are invited, along with the adults who bring them. The adults don’t have to be mom and dad, or grandpa and grandma. They can be a foster parent, or anyone who would like to see children have a great time and enjoy a visit with Santa Claus and a great meal.

If the event sounds a bit too “open,” TLC and its supporters are working to make sure there is plenty of Christmas ham for everyone. The meal also features mashed potatoes and green beans. For children who prefer chicken nuggets, TLC will be providing those, prepared by Chick-fil-A.

TLC Director Angie Odom said the plan is to make it easy for small children to enjoy their meal. “We know they will be excited with Santa Claus and the presents, so we will allow them to take their meal home with them.”

TLC knows how to prepare a feast for small children. After all, they have been feeding the poor children who are dependent on school lunches for many years, going out into the countryside to serve meals during the summer vacation from school.

The child’s moment with Santa Claus will be captured by a professional photographer, and, of course, that is also free. Odom said Jack Tester of Best Portraits will be taking pictures and providing them for free to the children.

As if giving the children all the food they want and a free picture with Santa Claus were not enough, TLC will also be providing a special gift as LifeWay is giving away 1,000 of its bears.

But that is not all, one section of the dining room is filled up with bright bring bags. These are “bundles of joy.” These bags are filled with lots of things children and adolescents really need, including nonperishable food items, fruit, health and beauty aids and plenty of other surprises.

While Friday will be exciting it may not be quite as exciting as some of the earliest TLC Christmas events. The organization began celebrating Christmas by working with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department to have family visits for prisoners who would be in jail on Christmas. For years, TLC made it possible for boys and girls to see their mother and father at Christmas. Often it was the first time they had seen their parent in several months. While there were lots of presents then, most of the boys and girls thought the best present was seeing that daddy was still doing well after all that time.

Odom’s favorite memory is of a boy who had not seen his father in eight years. In the meantime, he had learned to play the guitar. Rather than speak with his father when he finally saw him again, the boy began playing him a Christmas song. The father quickly broke down in tears. Odom was soon crying and then tough Chief Deputy Ron Street was also crying.

That tradition was changed when the new jail was built and the visits were not able to be continued. But TLC continues to make Christmas an incredible time for both children and adults.

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