Well, the presidential election is over, the fiscal cliff is looming but more immediately, the holidays are upon us. That means while many of us will celebrate in style, there are plenty of folks who are need this time of the year.
Each year The Daily Advance strives to bring you up to speed on what is happening with area aid agencies during the holidays, and how you can help. It’s really all about what the ghost of Jacob Marley told Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ class, “A Christmas Carol,” humankind is our business.
During Christmastime one agency that seems to stand out is The Salvation Army. What would this season be without the jolly faces and bright smiles of those bell ringers standing astride red kettles, hoping that you’ll drop some spare change there way?
By the time you read this, the bell ringers will have already begun their annual kettle drive.
According to an article published in The Daily Advance earlier this month, The Salvation Army has approved 690 applications for holiday assistance this year. Maj. Butch Mallard, the director of the local Salvation Army unit, says that’s a 20 percent increase over last year. In addition, the Army has received 100 requests for food this year.
Mallard said the Army has set a goal of $90,000 for this year’s kettle campaign. Kettle locations will be Belk and J.C. Penny at Southgate Mall, Big Lots and Walmart. You won’t however, see them outside of Farm Fresh this year but the grocery chain folks say customers can support The Salvation Army at the cash register by donating toward Farm Fresh gift cards.
And of course this year, as with years past, the Angel Trees will be around the region. Mallard says Angel Tree locations will be: the Elizabeth City Walmart; IHOP; Roses in Elizabeth City and Edenton; Albemarle Hospital; the Ohoskie Walmart; Edenton Motors; and the Edenton Duck Thru.
The Angel Tree, folks will remember, provides tags with the items a child or family has asked for this season. Although toys might be on the list, folks familiar with these requests know that much of what is requested also amounts to necessities such as underwear and socks.
All you have to do is take a tag, go shopping and drop the items off with the Army. The deadline to return the gifts is Dec. 15. The gifts will be delivered Dec. 19.
And it’s also worth remembering that The Salvation Army does provide utility assistance. Donations to the Army could help offset a cold winter for some families this year.
To help The Salvation Army provide folks with a happy Christmas this year, you can either go to one of the Angel Tree locations, or call their office at 252-338-4129.
Hopeline offers hope for the holidays, too.
Of course Albemarle Hopeline, a domestic violence shelter and resource agency for women and children, provides hope year round. But as many folks will point out, hope can appear to run short this time of the year for those in need.
“We see people with greater stressors caused by the economy,” says Hopeline director Pat Youngblood. “And that just contributes to an already difficult situation.”
The women and children who reside in Hopeline’s shelter are there because of physical and emotional abuse. They are there in an effort to rebuild their lives. So this time of the year, when they might rather be in their home, they’re sharing space with other folks in similar situations.
Youngblood says that the agency tries to make the holidays as comfortable as possible for these folks and that also means providing them with Christmas gifts. That’s where members of the community can come into the picture.
She says that when providing gifts for the holiday, she and her staff try to make things fun for the family, especially the children, but also try to do practical things as well, such as coats or even gas and food cards.
She also points out that if folks are purchasing gifts for families, in lieu of cash donations to Hopeline, remember that there are teenagers in their midst as well. Teens often get left out when in these situations and Youngblood and her staff says it’s important to remember the entire family.
“The community is really good because they seem to step up every year,” says Youngblood.
For the 18th year The Southern Riders, a motorcycle enthusiast club, held a food and money drive to help Hopeline with the holidays. Also, says Youngblood, the Area Association of Realtors have also raised money to help Hopeline clients with Christmas
If you would like to help Albemarle Hopeline this Christmas, call 252-338-3011.
Perhaps more than any time of the year, the holidays are associated with food. And for those struggling to keep a meal on the table, this time of the year can seem especially dire.
This year is the 30th anniversary of Food Bank of the Albemarle and perhaps more than any time in the organization’s history, the need to feed folks in these parts is great. Steve Murray is the Food Bank’s resource development director and while the holidays do seem to signal need, he also wants to remind folks that the need exists year round.
“Right now we’re looking at nearly 20 percent of our population here in northeast North Carolina being food insecure,” Murray stated in an email. It’s worse, 25 percent, when you’re talking about child hunger.
“In addition to the children, we have a lot of working families that can’t make ends meet and 17 percent of the households we serve include or are comprised of seniors.”
Murray has pointed out that the 20 percent he references means one in five people will face this problem this year. And that means folks will be choosing between meals versus rent, or perhaps groceries versus utilities.
So the Food Bank needs donations. They need non-perishable food and they can also use volunteers.
They also accept monetary donations. For every dollar they receive, they can turn that around to equal five pounds of food. Five pounds of food equates to four meals.
It’s also worth noting that 97 cents of every dollar donated to the Food Bank goes directly toward feeding the hungry.
To learn more about how you can help Food Bank of the Albemarle, call 252-335-4035.
Also helping this year, as in years past, is Toys for Tots. For information on that program, contact Albemarle Smart Start 252-333-1233.