One of the greatest joys of the holidays can be to give back and to put others before self. The holidays are not about receiving, but should be more about giving in the spirit of the holidays. Year after year local organizations, met with community donations and volunteers, do just that.
From law enforcement officers taking children out for a day of shopping, to local marines making sure that every child has a present to unwrap on Christmas morning, the Macon County community is known for helping out their neighbors during the holidays.
Shop with a Cop
Once again this December, the aisles of Walmart will be filled with shopping carts during Macon County’s 14th Annual Shop With A Cop event. A vision of Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland, Shop With A Cop has been bringing Christmas cheer to underprivileged children in the county for more than a decade. On one special day, local law enforcement officers accompany the kids on a shopping spree and then to a special Christmas party afterwards to get acquainted. Although kids are able to choose from any number of toys, most of the kids say their favorite part of the day is having the chance to ride in the police cars and hang out with officers from Macon County Sheriff’s Office, N.C. Wildlife, Franklin Police Department, State Bureau of Investigation and other agencies.
Although it is orchestrated each year by the Sheriff's Office, funding for the program is made possible by events throughout the year, and donations from community organizations like the Rotary Club. All year long, community clubs and individuals hold fundraisers just for the Shop with a Cop event.
This year, Read2Me will be working with the Sheriff's Office to provide free books to the children who are selected to participate in the program. The number of participants each year are based on the amount of community donations received, and money is budgeted to make sure that the maximum number of children can participate.
For more information, visit the Macon County Sheriff's Office in person.
Macon Program for Progress Holiday Angels is another local organization that offers assistance to low income families with young children and elderly family members with the greatest need during the Christmas holidays. Applications are being accepted through Nov. 30.
Holiday Angels works with other agencies and community groups so the maximum number of children is served without duplication. Sponsors will be matched to a family or an elderly individual and receive applicant information including clothing sizes, and other items they may request. Sponsors shop and wrap gifts and deliver packages to their family or they can deliver to MPP who arranges for delivery. Holiday Angels accepts tax-deductible monetary donations that are used to purchase food, clothing, toys, blankets, and other household items for participants who are not matched up with a sponsor. Checks shoud be made payable to MPP Holiday Angels.
Adults must be age 63+ or special needs adults on fixed incomes. Families who apply must have custody of at least one child 12 or younger. Eligibility follows the Federal Poverty guidelines and proof of last 12 months income for all adults living in the household is required.
Holiday Angels are still in need of sponsors and will continue to take sponsors until Nov. 30.
Any individual or group wishing to be a sponsor can request a sponsor application by calling (828) 524-4471. To make programs like the Holiday Angels possible, the community must join in and help ensure that the holidays are a warm, enjoyable time for everyone.
Toys for Tots
Since December 2002, the Smoky Mountain Toys for Tots, which is comprised of members of the Marine Corps Reserve in Macon, Jackson, Swain, Rabun, Towns and Union counties, have been working to bring toy supplements to children in the area.
Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, USCR and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea came from Bill’s wife, Diane. In the fall of 1947, Diane crafted a homemade doll and asked Bill to deliver the doll to an organization, which would give it to a needy child at Christmas. When Bill determined that no agency existed, Diane told Bill that he should start one. So, he did. The 1947 pilot project was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide campaign. That year, Marine Corps Reserve units across the nation conducted Toys for Tots campaigns in each community in which a Marine Reserve Center was located. Marines have conducted successful nationwide campaigns at Christmas each year since 1948.
The initial objective that remains the hallmark of the program today is to “bring the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children.”
According to Lee Cloer, who works with the Smoky Mountain Toys for Tots, an average of nearly 3,000 children will be helped by local efforts. “Toys for Tots change collection jugs and boxes are placed out at locations around Macon County,” said Cloer. “Our volunteers pick up the collected toys and money once a week during the Christmas season. We separate the toys between age and gender.
“All money collected has to be counted by two people and sent off to the Toys for Tots foundation. There, it is placed in our account to be spent only here in our area by the coordinator. We use that money to buy toys where we tend to get less donations like blankets, bottles, and toys for infants and toys for girls and boys over 12.”
According to Cloer, the program is so important because without it, children in Macon County may not have a Christmas. “If there were not a program like Toys for Tots thousands of children across our country would not get a new toy for Christmas,” he said.
For more information on how to help or to sign your child up for a toy, visit toysfortots. org or contact your local Marine Corps Reserve. A Toys for Tots collection jar and box is located at the Macon County News office at 107 Highlands Road.