With the blitz of holiday specials flashing across our
television screens and monitors, it can be easy to forget the true reason of the season and
remembering those who are not looking for a new iPad or smart phone this Christmas, but instead are
hoping to fill basic needs.
In the spirit of charitable giving, The Mountain Times has compiled a list of charitable organizations in the High Country that are dedicated to making the holidays a little brighter for those struggling year round.
Watauga County Public Library
Returning library books in a timely manner can be a challenge for more than just a few of us vivacious readers.
In an effort to reclaim some of the library’s treasured pieces of literature, the Watauga County Public Library will sponsor a book amnesty week from Dec. 9 until Dec.14. By bringing in a can of food for the food insecure of Watauga County, the library will deduct $1 from patrons’ late fees.
In keeping with the memory of a cherished member of the library’s staff who died in January, the library is sponsoring the Evelyn Johnson Giving Tree. Library guests are encouraged to leave gently used coats, hats, mittens, gloves and scarves at the tree, which is located in the reference area. The clothing items will then be distributed to local nonprofits.
You can also pick up a card and donate to the Evelyn Johnson Memorial Fund to refurbish the meeting room, which will be named in her honor, according to the library’s website.
Santa’s Toy Box
Since 1986, Deerfield United Methodist Church, in conjunction with several other community churches and the Boone Optimist Club, has orchestrated the county’s largest organized toy drop — Santa’s Toy Box.
Last year alone, Santa’s Toy Box brought toys to 918 children in the area on Christmas morning, according to Gene Swift, who co-chairs the operation with Judy Clarke.
“It has continued to be a community project,” Swift said.
Since its inception, other area churches and organizations have emerged to become major players in the project.
Drop-off locations are currently located at Haircut 101, the Boone Police Department, High County Host Visitor Center, any Watauga County Kangaroo convenience store, State Employees Credit Union on New Market Boulevard and Big Lots.
Donations can also be sent to P.O. Box 1337, Boone, N.C. 28607.
In terms of what toys are acceptable for donation, Swift said the charity wishes to avoid high dollar items, due to the need spread a limited amount of funds across a growing demographic.
Hunger and Health Coalition
Both editions of the Hunger and Health Coalition’s Sharing Tree have returned to benefit local families.
A family- and children-oriented Sharing Tree aims to serve 129 local families with children younger than 18, executive director Compton Fortuna said.
The concept of the sharing tree allows area residents to pick a participating family that has previously filled out a form listing needed items and then go shopping for that family.
If they choose, the donator can deliver the items personally, Fortuna said.
Beneficiaries of the program are restricted to families with children.
“We average around $50 (spent) on each child,” Fortuna said. “The family that adopts is expected to purchase some of those items, like food or a holiday meal. A lot of people do gift cards for families and allow them to do their own shopping.”
The names of more than half of the participating families have been left unclaimed on this year’s tree, Fortuna said.
As in past years, the coalition is also hosting a Sharing Tree for senior citizens, age 60 and older.
This tree works along the same lines as the family tree, Fortuna said.
For more information on the Sharing Trees or to learn how you can donate, call (828) 262-1628, or come by the Hunger and Health Coalition at 141 Health Center Drive in Boone.
'Christmas in the Mountains' CD
“Our annual Christmas in the Mountains CD is finally here,” Fortuna said. “It’s now available at different locations and on our website ( http://www.hungerandhealthcoalition.com).”
The album is a compilation of local and regional artists performing a wide variety of Christmas music. “There’s something for every taste,” Fortuna said.
Crae Morton, who came up with the original concept for the album, is responsible for the recruiting of artists. “Every CD buys enough food for a family for a week,” Fortuna said.
Each CD sells for $10. “Last year, we netted $25,000,” Fortuna said.
The album is currently available at locations throughout Boone, including Boone Drug, Bare Essentials and Pepper’s Restaurant. For a complete list of locations, visit http://www.hungerandhealthcoalition.com.
Boone Police Department Food Drive
The Boone Police Department is currently hosting a food drive through January.
“We are delighted they are doing this,” Fortuna said. “We normally do a food drive, but we didn’t want to compete with what they are doing. They are doing such a good job, we thought we would just let them continue.”
Food collected will help to replenish the coalition’s food pantry.
The primary drop off location for food is at the BPD, located at 1500 Blowing Rock Road in Boone.
Toy and Gift Card Drive
A toy and gift drive to benefit children in the foster care system is currently underway in the High Country.
Several live music events, which are directly connected to the drive, will be held to generate awareness.
Melissa Reaves’ annual Holiday Show at Char officially kicked-off the drive. This will be followed by another holiday show, featuring Hope Harvey and Friends, on Thursday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. at Zuzda in Banner Elk. Admission will include an unwrapped toy or gift card.
Grandfather Home for Children is the primary foster care program in the area and is separate from the Department of Social Services.
“The needs of these children really run the gamut,” foster care manager Heather Bender said. “There are younger children desperately in need of speech development toys, older children who would love to have a book and kids who just need clothes and shoes that actually fit.”
“These children have already suffered abuse or neglect or both, and the idea of them being forgotten during the holidays, when they are already away from their families, is heartbreaking,” local volunteer Lynne Lear said. “Many of them have never even heard of Christmas or Santa, but the saddest ones are those who are aware but have never gotten a gift.”
While collections will be made at the upcoming shows, there are also drop-off spots around the High Country: Peabody’s Wine and Beer Merchants in Boone, Erick’s Cheese & Wine in Banner Elk, Blowing Rock Market, Christopher’s Wine & Cheese in Blowing Rock and Carolina Country Wines in West Jefferson.
Items and cash donations can be dropped off at any of the above locations through Monday, Dec. 23. For more information or to donate, contact Lear at (423) 794-8825.
Toys for Tots
The Marine Corps Toys for Tots helps ensure that children in need have a happy Christmas.
Since the program’s establishment in 1947, Marines have collected and distributed more than 402 million toys. On average, 15 million toys are distributed annually, helping approximately 6.3 million children in need.
The local Toys for Tots drive ends Friday, Dec. 20, when all bags will be distributed to families in need.
“We accept only new, unwrapped gifts and toys,” organizer Becky Fowler said. “We try to provide each child a gift bag with a warm outfit, coat or shoes and boots, some other personal items and several age appropriate toys.”
These items can be brought to the local effort’s processing center, which is located at the Boone Mall, next to T.J. Maxx, or in one of the Toys for Tots drop-off locations around town.
For more information, call (828) 265-0950, or visit http://www.toysfortots.org.
Bells are ringing, meaning the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle Campaign is underway.
Locally, the organization provides assistance for utility and heating bills, furniture, clothing and a food pantry, located at the local outpost’s office at 719-A Greenway Road in Boone.
The local unit also works with Avery Project Christmas and Santa’s Toy Box to provide food gift cards to clients who receive toys for their children.
Last year, the Red Kettle Campaign raised $41,000 in Watauga and Avery counties, and the organization hopes to boost that amount to $45,000 this year.
The campaign runs through Dec. 24, with kettles and bell-ringers stationed at Walmart, Kmart, Walgreens, Belk, Lowes Foods, Harris Teeter, JC Penney and Ingles in Boone.
For more information, call (828) 262-1005, or email email@example.com.