This year’s Johnson City Senior Center Foundation Christmas Box Program proved once again why it is a worthwhile undertaking.
Thanks to the help of donors, volunteers, Johnson City Parks and Recreation staff and others, the program has now provided low-income seniors food and other items for a decade. The group effort brings warmth into area homes and a caring, personal touch to the needy in the community.
Last week, following the gathering of donations, the procurement of food and household items, the wrapping and filling of 250 boxes and 500 bags and route and delivery planning, volunteers loaded up vehicles and hit the road.
“I wish they would give this to somebody that needs it more than me,” a frail, 95-year-old Virginia Owens told two volunteers as they wished her a merry Christmas and exchanged lengthy hugs.Owens was one of many seniors screened prior to the program by the Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability to verify low income, disability and need. The program also is one of the few that does not stage a pickup from a single location. Instead, the foundation prefers to make the experience personal for both those in need and those wanting to serve.
Routes are determined by addresses and assigned according to what each vehicle can carry. It’s an all-hands-on-deck experience from there, with volunteers performing whatever tasks are necessary.
“When you walk into peoples’ homes and you see the looks on their faces, it brings tears to your eyes,” said Rebecca Hennessee, Christmas Box Program chair, “Recipients express gratefulness, and it helps people that don’t necessarily have advocates. They also may want you to stay and talk with them, and we do. This year we have about 100 volunteers, and they’re inspired because they know the need is out there.”
There were a lot of different agencies doing similar charitable work when the foundation started the program, but there began to be a duplication of services, Hennessee said. However, the need is even greater now, and that’s why the foundation is always looking for corporate, business, individual and other donations and contributions.
Recipients received soups, canned chicken and tuna, beans, carrots, peaches, macaroni, cereal and many other food items. Perishable items, such as bread, hams and eggs are packed the morning of delivery. Other items, such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, and dish and laundry detergent were added this year knowing these are products that cannot be purchased through the state’s SNAP program.
“I’m blessed that I don’t have these needs, but there are many, many low-income seniors,” said Jo Willems, who has volunteered for five years. “They express thankfulness, and many of them say, ‘I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t done this.’”
The foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, already is looking for business and individual sponsors and donors for next year. This is one of the foundation’s most rewarding programs, and each year the demands and needs grow.
If you’re interested in helping low-income and disabled seniors through the Christmas Box Program, visit www.JCSCFoundation.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.