’Twas the Season

Article Published: Jan. 3, 2013 | Modified: Jan. 3, 2013
’Twas the Season

From left, Becky and Kris Fowler share a laugh while organizing a previous Toys for Tots collection. The Fowlers reported an increase in charitable giving over the recent holiday season.

Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Although the glitzy ornaments now hang tired and the scurry of Christmas giving is over for most, the spirit of Christmas thankfulness does not have to be. Four Watauga County charitable organizations received generous gifts and help over Christmas and continue to arrange programs of giving after the holidays.

The Sharing Tree

This year, the Hunger and Health Coalition received 168 “needs lists” assigned to its Sharing Tree.
Every year, local families bring a list of their needs to be “adopted” by supporting families.

“We met our goal of 168, and it was down to the wire, with two families adopted on Christmas Eve,” said Compton Fortuna, Hunger and Health Coalition executive director.

This year’s requests were up considerably from last year’s 140.

“I think just generally the cost of living continues to rise, but wages don’t,” she said. “Many people struggle just to get by, and that’s so much more difficult in the winter when the heating expense increases tremendously.”

The requesting families are limited to those who receive food assistance. Their items listed are always clothing, food and the occasional – and optional – “special needs” request.

Fortuna said this year, a 90-year-old lady requested a bathrobe.

“She said that was the only thing she could even think of wanting,” she said. “It makes you think about how we take care of our own families that that would be such a small request. But for a woman who has lived so long, this was all she wanted.”

Monetary donations are always welcome, but there are many hands-on ways to volunteer post-Christmas, as well, Fortuna said, “making meals, unpacking food boxes and organizing a food drive in your own group or church.”

Credit card donations can be made online at http://www.hungercoalition.com

For more information or to volunteer at the coalition, visit http://www.hungercoalition.com or call (828) 262-1628.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child (OCC), a facet of Samaritan’s Purse, sends shoe and plastic boxes full of needs and gifts like knitted scarves, toys, toothpaste, soap, books and writing supplies to children, both international and domestic.

OCC’s international headquarters, located at 801 Bamboo Road in Boone, is still tallying the more than 720,000 boxes received. The organization will continue to accept boxes year-round.

“Our goal, world-wide, was 9.1 million, and our domestic goal was 6.5 million,” said Rachael Mills, community relations manager for OCC. “It looks like we’ve exceeded that.”

Often, OCC will receive an odd gift, like a box with nothing but a blanket or girl’s clothing in a boy’s box, or doubles of everything.

“It always ends up being the perfect thing for that child,” warehouse manager Chris Gotwald said.
People can continue to volunteer for OCC by joining the High Country Area Team. Team members dedicate to calling churches and local business, reminding them of the OCC project, setting up months to make or buy for a certain gift category and organizing packaging parties.

People can volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse in many ways, including disaster relief.

To volunteer for either, for directions on how to pack a shoebox or to make a monetary donation, visit http://www.samaritanspurse.org.

Toys for Tots

For the third year, the local Toys for Tots has merged the U.S. Marine Corps program and Eagle Rock Ministry’s High Country Toy Run.

The number of children given winter coats, toys, watches and wallets has steadily increased each year, branching into more than 800 this year, compared to last year’s 757.

“We had some ladies that came from Elkton, Md., that helped us,” organizer Becky Fowler said.
The women, from Faith Southern Baptist Church, “actually knit between 200 and 300 toboggans that were absolutely gorgeous,” Fowler said.

The gifts went throughout Avery, Ashe and Watauga counties, going as far as Mountain City, Tenn., where a friend’s cleaning lady was in need.

Monetary contributions were up this year from last, as well, and went toward buying clothing and personal items.

“We got incredible help from businesses, too,” Fowler said. “Belk gave us hundreds of children’s coats that were originally $70 for $13.70.”

“We’ll take donations all year long,” said Kris Fowler, organizer and retired Marine.

Gift donations will go to the Fowlers’ storage pod and will be given this year.

Volunteer work to mail, wrap, sort and package will be needed again in October, the Fowlers said.
Credit card donations can be made online. To make a donation, call Kris Fowler at (828) 260-2981 or the local base at (828) 265-0950.

To locate Boone’s Toys for Tots online site, visit http://www.toysfortots.org, and click on the link to “Host Local Toys for Tots Event or Find a Local Toy Drop Location. 265-0950 Becky.

Santa’s Toy Box

The physical location of Santa’s Toy Box will be used by other organizations until this Christmas, but organizers are already shopping for gifts.

“A lot of stores like Walmart and Belk and Michaels give us a discount, and we shop for sale items throughout the year,” organizer Sallie Swift said.

More than 900 children (younger than 16) received gifts this year, after their parents browsed the rooms choosing presents, including dolls, telescopes, dream lights and building blocks.

“Monetary donations were down considerably,” said Gene Swift, co-chairman of the project.

“Businesses were down, and construction was down – where we have received considerable help in the past. We can always use the help after Christmas. If people find good deals on toys, we’re always glad to take them and hold them in our storage space.”

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

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

Additional Images

From left, Becky and Kris Fowler share a laugh while organizing a previous Toys for Tots collection. The Fowlers reported an increase in charitable giving over the recent holiday season.
Photo by Frank Ruggiero

Even after the holiday season, Operation Christmas Child in Boone is still tallying the more than 720,000 gift boxes received.
Photo courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse

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