Most of the people in line were young mothers hoping to be accepted by the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program in order to provide their children with some gifts for Christmas.
Others stood in the line at Elizabethton’s National Guard Armory to apply for the Johnson City Press Christmas Box, which would provide for a feast for Christmas dinner and enough extra for several other meals.
But Henry (the names used in this story have been changed to protect privacy) was the only octogenarian standing in the long line. He stood out with his white hair and tall stature. He still stood straight and unbowed, but the years have been taking a toll.
Growing up a long time ago, Henry once enjoyed playing with a lot of brothers and sisters. Those siblings are all gone, except for sister Ruth. At 86, she recently underwent open heart surgery.
The doctors don’t think Ruth will live a lot longer. She is home from the hospital, but she does not seem to be improving. Jack thinks this will be Ruth’s last Christmas — and that’s why he was standing in line.
“I just want her to enjoy her last Christmas with a big meal at her home with her family,” Henry said.
Henry was crying as he said that, but said he cries all the time. “I had a type of stroke that affects people’s emotions,” Henry said. “Some people who have that stroke laugh a lot and others, like me, cry a lot.”
Although Henry is still suffering from the affects of the stroke, he makes sure his children and grandchildren are taking good care of Ruth. Family members take turns spending days and nights with her, helping with her needs and providing much-needed company. The family could provide a small Christmas meal for Ruth, but Henry just wants to invite all of the family and Ruth’s remaining friends to join her for a very special Christmas.
When Henry finally reached the end of the line and sat down to complete his application, he explained the circumstance and provided copies of documents that showed he had Ruth’s power of attorney.
After finishing the application, Henry headed out the door, still making plans about how he could make this a very special Christmas for his sister.
For both the Christmas Box and the Angel Tree, he said, “I appreciate anything they do because, if not for them, a lot of people wouldn’t have anything and a lot of kids wouldn’t have any gifts or anything to eat,” at Christmas.
Donations to the Christmas Box are tax deductible, and can be made online at jcpchristmasbox.com or by mail to P.O. Box 1387, Johnson City, TN, 37605. Because the Johnson City Press covers all administrative costs for the project, 100 percent of all donations are used to buy food.
A $35 donation to the Christmas Box will provide a large food box with all the makings of a Christmas dinner: a ham, 10 pounds of potatoes, 3 pounds of onions and more than 40 canned and packaged food items for a family of three or more people, or a $35 Food City gift certificate for a senior living alone or small household of one or two people.
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 contacting Senior Reporter Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected] or 423-722-0538.
The Christmas Box food distribution is conducted in partnership with Johnson City Salvation Army Angel Tree shopping adoption program for children in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties, which is set to kick off on Nov. 15. For more information about the Angel Tree, call the Salvation Army at 423-926-2101.