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High Country Charities Make a Last-Minute Push to Ensure All Area Residents Have a Happy Holiday

by Madison V. Fisler

Dec. 23, 2013. Don’t look now, but Christmas Eve is tomorrow and that means the holidays have already crept up on us. While many in the High Country have spent their winter season preparing gifts, trimming trees and stuffing stockings, many others in the area have also dedicated their time to helping those in need.

Just because Christmas Day is in sight doesn’t mean that the giving is slowing down. Many local area charities are making a last push to help all they can this holiday season, a season which has seen even more in need than was expected this year. 

And it’s not too late to help. Many charitable organizations are still working hard to ensure the Christmas spirit isn’t lost on anyone, and there is still time to express the true meaning of the season of giving.

The Watauga Crisis Assistance Network’s (WeCAN) Warm Hearts, Warm Homes program raises money to assist families in need in paying for heating fuel as the days get colder. Anyone in a low-income household is eligible to ask WeCAN for fuel assistance starting Nov. 1. Through partnerships with many local energy companies, the organization provides each eligible client with 100 gallons of fuel for as long as funds will allow.

Warm Hearts, Warm Homes runs completely off of donations and can only operate as long as funds keep coming into the organization to be distributed to keep families warm this winter. Twenty-six percent of residents in Watauga County live in poverty with another 20 percent unable to earn a living wage.

Last year, the organization had to turn away a total of 75 homes in need of assistance because of lack of funding. This year, the campaign hopes to raise $135,000 to meet the needs of every local home that requires assistance with heating this winter.

Campaign contributions can be donated online at www.hosphouse.org or mailed to Hospitality House with checks made out to WeCAN at P.O. Box 309 Boone, NC 28607. 

Operation Christmas Child kicked off the season with national collection week Nov. 18 – Nov. 25. The organization collects shoeboxes, packed with gifts like school supplies, hygiene items and small toys made by giving families, organizations and individuals to send to children in need around the world.

Collection centers in the area include Three Forks Baptist Church in Boone, the Boone Processing Center at 801 Bamboo Road, West Jefferson First Baptist Church in West Jefferson, Lower Creek Baptist Church in Lenoir and others.

For more information about packing a shoebox for a child, dropoff or any other information about operation Christmas Child or Samaritan’s Purse, click here

Toys for Tots will utilize the Boone Mall as a collection center to collect toys for children in need. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity, is the authorized fundraising and support organization for the Toys for Tots Program.  The Foundation provides the funding and support needed for successful annual toy collection and distribution campaigns.

While Toys for Tots Coordinators organize, coordinate and manage the campaign, the ultimate success depends on the support of the local community and the generosity of the people who donate toys. For more information about the Boone campaign, click here

Hunger and Health Coalition’s Sharing Tree will once again help those in need this holiday season. There are two versions of the trees: the family and children oriented tree which serves almost 130 families and a Sharing Tree for senior citizens over age 60. The tree allows residents to pick a family off of the tree and purchase gifts to help make their holidays a little brighter. This year, there are still many names on the tree left unclaimed. For more information and to help out a family this year, call the Hunger and Health Coalition at 828-262-1628. You can also help by purchasing the Christmas in the Mountains CD, available now, for $10.

High Country Caregivers Foundation needs the help of the High Country public once again for their “Holiday For Kids” fundraiser through the Relatives as Parents Program. The goal is to collect as many gifts as possible to relieve the burden on kinship caregivers during the holiday season. A toy drive will be held in Watauga, Avery and Ashe counties to collect gifts for children in these families and relieve the burden for the caregivers. 

“With the toy drive we served 67 families last year in Avery and Watauga counties,” said Brenda Reece of the High Country Council of Governments.

The Boone Police Department is organizing a food drive to help people in need in our area.  The food collected during this drive will be donated to the Hunger & Health Coalition in Boone for distribution. The dates for this event are Dec. 2, 2013, thru Jan. 3, 2014. “Our economy has been cruel to many people all over America.  Many people in our local communities are hurting today.  Unemployment, underemployment and the ever-increasing price of goods is causing many good people to choose between their basic needs,” said Lt. Chris Hatton.  

Buckeye Recreation Center Angel Tree: Please join us in this holiday opportunity to adopt a less fortunate child who would otherwise receive very little or nothing during the holiday season. Become an Angel and provide them with personalized gifts and necessities to make this holiday a special one. Our program identifies local children in our surrounding area and determines their wants and needs for the holiday. That Child’s name and needs are then placed on our Angel Tree at the Buckeye Recreation Center. You then have the opportunity to select a child or two-or five!- and become their Angel to help meet their needs and wishes for a joyous holiday, bringing a smile to their face. The very sad truth is that we have already identified so many children in need from Bethel Elementary, Freedom Trail Elementary and Banner Elk Elementary who need our assistance for the holidays, that we may have to limit the amount from each location to place in our program. The only way we can increase our assistance to these children is by you letting us know that you will be participating as an Angel to one or more of these children. The names and needs of the children will be available by Nov. 25 at the Buckeye Recreation Center. Call now to let us know that you will be participating as an Angel. Be prepared to provide us with your name, address, phone number, email address and just how many children you would like to adopt as their Angel.