As hearts are more tender during this season, people in Rutherford County have a number of opportunities to help those in need.
Among programs to make sure children have gifts for Christmas is through the Marine Corps League's Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army's Christmas Cheer Center here in Rutherford County.
Food pantries also collect Christmas gifts and other donations to help clients who usually come weekly or monthly for food boxes.
The Department of Social Services, churches, civic groups, individuals and businesses across the county also help those in need during the season.
Toys for Tots gift boxes are placed in strategic places around the county allowing easy access for people who want to provide Christmas toys and gifts for children birth to 12 years old.
Already this year the number of people requesting assistance for children has exceeded this time last year, "The number is way up," said Marine Bill (Gunny) Swope who was at the Marine Corps League headquarters recently.
Linda Cote, a four year volunteer with Toys for Tots, continues to work at the headquarters each day during the season to help box toys for the children.
"I love it," she said. She is married to Marine Bill Cote and they moved to the county a few years ago and discovered Toys for Tots. Marine Cote also volunteers when he can.
Marine Troy Stanley who coordinates the Toys for Tots said, "We're currently at 496 kids. We're seeing a huge uptick in applicants new to the program. I think with inflation where it is, we'll reach 900 plus kids.
"We will be buying different age categories beginning Monday as we exhaust our current inventory," he added.
For assistance in completing the application form to get on the list, people can visit their headquarters on Trade Street in Forest City or call Stanley at 828-447-8526.
Distribution of the toys will be on December 17 and December 17 at the headquarters.
All toys should be at the headquarters by Friday, December 9.
At the Salvation Army Thrift Store office in Forest City, Social Worker Norma Murphy said the Christmas tree angels have also been placed in stores and areas across the county. People who see the angel names are encouraged to choose an angel and fill the Christmas wish list.
Each angel has the age and gender of the child and the wish list.
There are also Salvation army Christmas stockings that need to be stuffed for Rutherford County children.
Stockings and angel gifts and winter gloves or hats are also suggested for infants to age 12 for both girls and boys.
The stockings and the angel trees should be returned to the Salvation Army store as soon as possible.
This year's distribution center will be in Rutherfordton at the former Fred's building off Charlotte Road.
Suggested stocking stuffers include items for infants, toddlers, ages 3-5; ages 6-9 and ages 10-12. Items can include all things needed for infants such as shampoo, baby oil, sleepers, onesies, bibs, blankets, diapers, etc.
Toddler gifts can include socks, hats, mittens, small stuffed animals, books; young children- small books, Matchbox cars, hair barrettes, toothbrush, underwear, socks, gloves etc.
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For children ages 6-9: pencils, crayons, watches, socks, small dolls, LEGOs and for the older children age-appropriate board games, personal care items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, gloves, hats, wallet, etc.
"People tend to shop for the younger children so we need gifts for the older children, too," Norma said.
She expects the Salvation Army to provide stocks and gifts for approximately 300 children this year. As the deadline nears, the Toys for Tots program often assists with the Salvation Army's Christmas Cheer wish lists.
There is also a need for bell ringers for the Salvation Army. Families, church groups, businesses or individuals who would like to volunteer to ring bells are encouraged to do so.
For anyone looking for a paid job during the season, bell ringing is also an option. Interested persons can call 287-0855 and ask for an application or visit the Salvation Army at 256 West Main Street, Forest City.
The bell ringers with the bright red kettles are at various locations across the county including Belk, Food Lion, Ingles, Hobby Lobby, Walmart.
Money from the bell ringing helps with the Christmas gifts and helps with rent, medicine or utilities for those who qualify.
There is also a food pantry at the Salvation Army for those who need food.
For information about the angels, stockings or if interested in ringing bells call 828-287-0855.
Helping with food pantries
The Grace of God Rescue Mission will be serving a Thanksgiving Meal beginning at 11am on Thanksgiving Day and those who would like to have a hot meal.
There will also be a Christmas Eve meal at 11am at the center. In addition, there will be fruit baskets, gloves and scarves.
To help pay the cost of the meals, people can send monetary donations to The Grace of God Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 212, Forest City, NC 28043 or take donations to the rescue mission at 537 West Main Street, Forest City.
In addition to the holiday meals, the Grace of God serves more than 43,000 meals to people across the county annually.
There are several ways to help people in the community through Washburn Community Outreach Center in Bostic, said director Lindy Abrams.
- Host a canned food or toiletries drive through your church or civic organization;
- Volunteer with food distribution Thursday or Friday 9am-1pm;
- Donate warm clothes, socks or shoes to our thrift store;
- Make a financial donation to help Washburn purchase food throughout the year.
For details or more information reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monetary donations can be made to: Washburn Community Outreach Center, 2934 Piney Mountain Church Road, Bostic NC 28018
Crystal S. Tate, director of Chase Corner Ministries, said, " As Christmas nears, we are asking for help with Christmas. We would like to help families with gifts for 13 and 18 year olds. There is not a program to help with this age group. We welcome gift cards, money and gifts for that age group."
At BASICS Ministry in Henrietta, Barry Yelton said donations of toys are the greatest need this season.
"Of course, all donations are appreciated especially food and monetary donations
Call 828-289-7996 for more information on how to help. BASICS is located at 141 N. Main Street, Henrietta.
Yokefellow Service Center in Spindale also provides help with low-income residents who can use assistance with food, medicine, utilities and rent.
New Beginnings Soup Kitchen, Rutherfordton, Neighbors Pantry in Gilkey, Hickory Nut Gorge Outreach Center and other nonprofit food donation centers and thrift stores areas across Rutherford County can always use food, monetary donations, gently used clothes and volunteers. Money from the thrift stores go back into the organization they represent.