Area organizations help needy

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

Families are making plans and traveling to be together for the holiday season. Aunts are arguing over who will bake the pumpkin pie, and kids will soon be whining, asking when dinner will be ready. But what is happening to those who don't have a family or who cannot afford to cook a holiday meal is the concern of area organizations that help those in need.
   Second Harvest Food Bank, 127 Dillon Court, Gray, has sent out direct mailings recently to help bring in donations. On Thanksgiving Day, Second Harvest will be assisting Grady's American Grill with the Third Annual Grady's Gives Thanks food program which is expected to feed 2,000 people. Second Harvest will be providing approximately 80 percent of the food.
   Grady's will bus people in from housing authorities to serve a Thanksgiving Day meal from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. First Free Will Baptist of Elizabethton will be delivering hot meals from Grady's to families unable to travel to Johnson City. To sign up, call 928-2722 tomorrow to schedule a delivery.
   Good Samaritans Ministries, 601 Bert Street, Johnson City, has finished the process of handing out Thanksgiving baskets, but will be also be helping with Grady's Give Thanks. A food box will also be set up at Grady's for people wanting to donate non-perishable items.
   Transportation is available from East Side Elementary School at 10 a.m. for residents of South Hills and Lynn Ridge Apartments; First Free Will Baptist Church at 10:30 a.m.; for residents of Pine Ridge Circle at Hale's Community Chapel Complex, also at 10:30 a.m., and at Courtyard Apartments at 10:40 a.m. To schedule transportation, call Good Samaritan Ministries at 928-0288. For volunteer opportunities, call Pete Ball at Grady's at 282-2722.
   Second Harvest is also supporting approximately 30 food drives with local businesses and churches.
   Abby Simmons, community relations coordinator for Second Harvest, is working on a food drive for after the new year, called "Sharing Our Spirit Food Drive" to combat the slump in giving after the holidays have passed.
   Sheryl Hartley, development coordinator with Second Harvest, said, "One of the issues we face is there is still a lot of need in the early part of the new year. We would like to ask those who would like to donate now to consider donating again in January, February or March, because we just do not have as much available."
   Hartley said donations to Second Harvest "has been on par with last year monetarily speaking. We have also had a really good response with food drives."
   In contrast, Sara Wells, of Good Samaritan Ministries said, "Donations have been extremely down throughout the year." She said donations are probably down compared to last year by 30 percent.
   Wells said 448 children and 77 elderly have still not been sponsored for the holidays.
   "It is the economy. During times like this, normally people have to tighten their belts. We are all having to be a little more careful," Wells said. "People are losing their jobs, especially in Elizabethton, because of the industry leaving."
   According to Hartley, Hancock County is the poorest county in the eight county area that Second Harvest serves with 29.4 percent of people living in poverty. The statistics for Carter County are not that drastic, but 68.2 percent of Carter County children are eligible for reduced or free meals at school.
   Carol Williams, director of Assistance Resource Ministry, 519 Broad St., said donations to her organization "have been up for the last few months. But maybe people are more aware that we are here now. It has been really good for us."
   ARM helps low-income families in Carter County with food, clothing, and assistance with deposits and payments of rent, electric and water bills. Williams said people are always in need of cleaning supplies, diapers, or any other item that cannot be purchased with food stamps.