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The Reason for the Season

Article Published: Dec. 20, 2012 | Modified: Dec. 26, 2012
The Reason for the Season

Samaritan’s Purse accepts year-round donations for its Operation Christmas Child program.
Photo courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse

Demanding advertisements and the panic of Christmas shopping can easily warp the season into what one local calls a “stuff stampede.”

Instead of giving and getting out of obligation or tradition, many locals are opting to give to those in need. Four Watauga County operations have creatively arranged ways to do so.

The Sharing Tree

The Sharing Tree is the connector between Watauga families – those with needs and those with means. Every year, local families bring a list of their needs to the Hunger and Health Coalition.

Supporting families then “adopt” that family by purchasing the items as gifts, prior to Christmas day.
This year, the coalition received 168 “needs lists,” a significant increase from the 140 last year. The organization still has the lists of 20 families waiting to be “adopted.”

“I think (the Sharing Tree) probably started as a result from hearing families’ stories and seeing what they’re going through, paired with families who want to help but don’t know how,” said Compton Fortuna, executive director of the Hunger and Health Coalition. “Since I’ve been here, feedback was increased from the donors wanting to cover children’s needs, as well as adults’.”

The items listed are always clothing and food and occasionally an optional “special needs” request.
Families can adopt a list Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or Christmas Eve from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Hunger and Health Coalition, located at 141 Health Center Drive in Boone.

Fortuna said that the groceries and gifts can either be dropped off at the coalition office or personally taken to the family’s home, “preferably before Christmas day.”

Families who would like to “adopt” and do not have time to shop can drop off a monetary donation or Walmart gift card at the coalition.

Credit card donations can be made online at

For more information, visit or call (828) 262-1628.

Samaritan’s Purse: Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child, a facet of Samaritan’s Purse, sends shoe or plastic boxes full of needs and gifts, like knitted sweaters, toys, toothpaste, soap, books and writing supplies, to international children.

For directions on how to pack and send a shoebox, visit

Operation Christmas Child’s international headquarters, located on 801 Bamboo Road, Boone, processed about 720,000 shoeboxes during its 15 days of work in late November and early December.

Though the shoebox processing has been completed for this year, of the six processing plants, Boone’s is the only one that accepts donations year-round. “We’ll gladly accept more for next year,” said Karina Petersen, media relations coordinator.

For more information or to make a monetary donation, visit

Toys for Tots

Bulky boxes with the red train “Toys for Tots” logo will remain scattered through Watauga County through Friday, Dec. 20.

Toys left inside the boxes for donation must be unopened and will be distributed to the more than 250 school children who have applied. Last year, the organization gave toys, sweaters, watches and wallets to 450 children.

“Up to age 18, if people ask for toys and tell us they need help, we help them,” Kris Fowler, organizer and retired Marine, said. “All the toys collected here are used here, and all the money collected here is used here.”

Volunteers to shop, wrap, organize and distribute toys will be needed until Saturday, Dec. 22. To volunteer, call Fowler at (828) 260-2981.

The Toys for Tots headquarters is located in the Boone Mall, beside T.J. Maxx. “We’ll take donations all year long,” Fowler said.

Boxes are located at: Boone Mall, K-Mart on Blowing Rock Road, Walgreens, Boone Drug at Deerfield, Boone Drug on King Street, Boone Drug on Greenway, High Country Honda, Modern Toyota, Banana Republic at Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway and Ruby Tuesday.

The local Toys for Tots program is a joint effort of the U.S. Marine Corps and Eagle Rock Ministry’s High Country Toy Run.

Credit card donations can be made online. To make a cash or check donation, deposit the money in one of the boxes or call Fowler at (828) 260-2981 or the local base at (828) 265-0950.

To locate Boone’s Toys for Tots online site, visit, and click on the link to “Host Local Toys for Tots Event” or “Find a Local Toy Drop Location.”

Santa’s Toy Box

Santa’s Toy Box is like a life-size treasure chest shelved with books, games, dolls and stuffed animals for local children at Christmastime.

Families schedule a date to walk through Santa’s Toy Box, during which each child receives one “blue gift” ($20 to $30 value); one “red gift ($15 to $20) and two white gifts (up to $8 each).

Though Saturday was the last open walk through Santa’s Toy Box, monetary donations made for last-minute gifts and next year’s efforts are gladly accepted.

Donations can be sent to Santa’s Toy Box, P.O. Box 1337, Boone, N.C. 28607.

“We’ll be shopping for gifts again in January,” said Sallie Swift, wife of Gene Swift, co-chairman of project. “A lot of stores like Walmart and Belk and Michaels give us a discount, and we shop for sale items throughout the year.”

Santa’s Toy Box began 26 years ago when the men at Deerfield United Methodist Church began collecting and repairing used toys for local children at Christmas. Their efforts billowed into gifts for 927 children last year.

Santa’s Toy Box is located on George Wilson Road in Boone.

For more information, call Gene Swift at (828) 264-4801 or (828) 264-0675.

Additional Images

Samaritan’s Purse accepts year-round donations for its Operation Christmas Child program.
Photo courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse

Organizers gather food items for the Hunger and Health Coalition’s annual Sharing Tree program.
Photo submitted

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