Christmas baskets to be given to needy families on Wednesday

By Greg Miller

The Elizabethton-Carter County Community Services Council is preparing to distribute 800 Christmas baskets at the National Guard Armory on Wednesday.
   "The families with children pick up from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.," said Misty Hammitt, Carter County Head Start's representative to the council for the past five years. "The families without children pick up from 1 to 3 p.m."
   The baskets contain a canned ham, a turkey breast, canned foods, macaroni-and-cheese, peanut butter, crackers, cake mixes, candy, fresh fruit, and bread. "Sometimes there is extra, depending on what we can get donated," Hammitt said.
   New toys are provided for children through Toys for Tots, the Salvation Army, and area businesses. "If we don't have enough toys or food to meet our needs, the monetary donations that we get from the community, businesses, agencies, or individual donations, (then) we purchase the other toys and food to fill the baskets," she said.
   Some of the same families receive the Christmas basket each year, in addition to new families who participate in the program. "We serve a lot of elderly people, and there are a lot of families that need extra help during the Christmas season," said Hammitt.
   Families who receive the baskets must meet federal income guidelines, and the council works closely with Hale Community Ministries in making that determination. "Some of the foods that go in the Christmas baskets are USDA foods, and they have to meet the federal income guidelines on food distribution," she said.
   Those who receive the baskets seem to appreciate the assistance, and everyone who receives the food expresses that sentiment.
   "We try to have enough for them to have a Christmas dinner. Ninety-nine percent of the people are very thankful and blessed that they can have that extra and have toys for their children to open at Christmas time," Hammitt said.
   Usually, no extra food or toys remain after the distribution, and any additional items that are left over are sent to Johnson County citizens. "The same thing is being done there at the end of the week, and they run short on toys occasionally. Hale Community Ministries heads that up. One of them sits on our council and works real closely with us getting food and getting things started," Hammitt said.
   In addition to council members, others serve as volunteers for the program. Several volunteers from the Watauga Baptist Association assist with the project, and trustys from the Carter County Jail help build boxes and deliver them.
   "We're always looking for new members for the council. They can contact me personally or Hale Community Ministries, and we'll be glad to tell them when our next meeting will be; if they would like to come and sit on our council with us. Anybody that wants to volunteer to help out needs to call me or Becky Brummit at Hale Community Ministries and see when the best time is to come and volunteer," said Hammitt.
   Hammitt's co-workers at Carter County Head Start also help with the project, as well as clubs within the schools systems such as the Civitan and Kiwanis Clubs.
   "It is actually a wonderful experience, being able to help the needy families in the community," Hammitt said. "Seeing the smiles on their faces when they come in is worth all of the work that we do."
   The council meets monthly at the Carter County Health Department from September through December to prepare for the Christmas basket distribution.