By Jessica Isaacs
There are just 10 days left before Christmas, but there are still a large number of families that need your help this season — and you still have time to help! Adopt a family from the Hunger and Health Coalition’s annual Sharing Tree and make the holidays happen for people right here in our community.
The Sharing Tree is the HHC’s annual holiday giving program, which enlists the help of Good Samaritans in the area to meet the needs of its clients at Christmastime.
In this struggling economy, an increased number of local families need help this year. Out of more than 60 who applied to receive assistance through the Sharing Tree, 48 still need to be adopted before Christmas, which is right around the corner.
“The number of people who need to be adopted has definitely increased over the past several years, and we’re having a hard time getting everyone adopted,” said HHC Interim Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Lee. “Economically speaking, Watauga County’s poverty rate has increased in recent years. That simple fact alone means that people need help.”
So how does the Sharing Tree work?
“Clients that have used our services in the past year come in and fill out an application for either their children (ages 17 and under) or clients over the age of 65,” said Lee. “We put their applications in a binder and we often have churches, families and businesses come in that want to adopt a family.”
If you want to help, stop by the HHC office to flip through the binder of applications and find a family whose needs you feel you can meet. Then, purchase the gifts on their needs list and, if you can afford it, something special for Christmas.
“Just come in, talk to us and let us know that you want to adopt a family. Flip through the book to find the one you want to choose and we will go over it with you,” Lee said. “We’ll ask you to write down your name and phone number. You will take a copy of the application and contact the family when you’re ready. It’s very simple.”
When you select a family, you can choose to drop off your gifts at the HHC office or you can arrange to meet with the family on your own to get to know them, deliver your gifts and spend some time spreading holiday cheer with folks who need it most.
“These families struggle all year and they genuinely want what’s best for their children and to provide for their children. Normalcy for kids is important — being able to see the tree on Christmas morning, look down and see gifts there,” said Lee. “All children want to feel normal and feel like they’re loved. For parents, it’s important for them to feel like they can provide things for their children.”
Lee, who recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in psychology, got involved with the HCC to make a difference in the community. If you’re looking for a way to make a difference, too, she encourages you to adopt a family this year.
“I was very fortunate growing up. During my freshman year, I volunteered at the Hospitality House and I saw there was a true need in the community for people who are willing to help others in need,” she said. “I absolutely love doing it, so, when the opportunity for an internship at Hunger and Health presented itself, I could not say no.
“The HHC strives to provide not only food but medication and clothing to local families. I definitely think that the Sharing Tree helps meet the needs and, hopefully, some of the wants, as well. Normalcy is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for children in their development. It can help them develop into more capable adults.”
Interested in helping but can’t afford to adopt a family? Don’t be discouraged! Every little bit counts and there are plenty of ways you can help. By volunteering your time, making a financial contribution or donating important items (clothing, diapers, food, firewood, etc.), you’re putting local families one step closer to the things they really need this year.
To adopt a family or find another way to help, call the HHC office at 828-262-1628, contact a staff member at [email protected] or stop by at 141 Health Center Drive.
For more information about the HHC and its work in the community, visit hungerandhealthcoalition.com.