The spirit of Christmas filled the building as dozens of volunteers took the information for each family and scurried to fill shopping carts with items designated to help the families have a joyous Christmas.
The Salvation Army Angel Tree program provided boys and girls with age-appropriate toys, as well as warm clothing and jackets in the child’s size. All of the items were selected by people who selected the child from a Salvation Army Christmas Angel Tree and then shopped for clothing for the child.
The Johnson City Press Christmas Box provided an entire family with enough groceries for not only an entire Christmas feast, but also a week’s worth of food for a family of four. The food included a half a ham, 10 pounds of potatoes, 3 pounds of onions, and more than 50 other food items, from canned goods to jars of pickles.
There were actually two different ways in which food was donated to needy families.
The 295 large boxes of food were distributed to families that had several members living at home. For small families with just one or two members, there were 182 food vouchers provided that still provided a generous meal for a smaller number of people.
Such a large distribution requires a large amount of dedicated workers, many of whom have been working for the Salvation Army Angel Tree or the Johnson City Press Christmas Box for many years. The Salvation Army’s effort was led this year by Lt. Antwann Yocum and Lt. Bethany Yocum.
There is also a dedicated group of volunteers who come out every year to help with the distribution.
Those include about 15 volunteers from First Baptist Church of Elizabethton who come year-after-year — some for a decade and more. One First Baptist member who has been coming for nearly half his life is Jacob Street.
Street was a student in the Elizabethton City School System when he first started volunteering. He is a recent graduate of Northeast State Community College in forensic social work and will start at East Tennessee State University next semester.
Some other First Baptist volunteers got some help from their employer. April Grindstaff, Carol Kapnick, and Becky Street work for Amerigroup, which has a work policy allowing its workers to provide volunteer service for a day and receive work credit for an eight-hour day.
Several volunteers were students from Unaka High School service clubs, including Family, Career and Community Leaders of America and HOSA-Future Health Professionals. Other volunteers came from the Carter County School System and the Woman’s Civic Club of Elizabethton.
Then there there were volunteers from the Carter County Car Club, who has long been among the most generous local supporters of the Christmas Angel program. This year the Car Club established a new club record by sponsoring more than 100 Angels.
The final day of distribution will be Friday, when Washington and Unicoi counties will be distributed at the Appalachian Fair grounds in Gray from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For those who would like to help, a $35 donation will provide the food box or a grocery gift certificate for one household.
Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of all Christmas Box donations are used to purchase 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 contacting Senior Reporter Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected] or 423-722-0538.