John Verge has been a Salvation Army Bell Ringer during the holiday season for 23 years. The Red Kettle Campaign raises money to “help out at Christmas and be a blessing to others,” he said. TMP/ M. Willard
Imagine a child not receiving any Christmas presents this year because of a lack of donations to charitable organizations.
The Rutherford County Home Builders Association hopes to supply Christmas toys to 2,000 children ranging in age from babies through 17-year-old students, said associate David Johnson. Guidance counselors chose neediest children based on those who receive subsidized school lunches.
But there are not enough toys to give to all the students who have registered.
“I imagine right now we’re getting 40 to 50 calls per day from parents trying to get kids signed up,” Johnson said. “Rutherford County has 12,000 kids on subsidized lunches. It’s tough but we try to do what we can.”
Lt. Joe Crawford of the Salvation Army and the Rev. Jim Hargrove, executive director of West Main Mission, share similar cutbacks.
Parents registered 1,439 children for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree where people adopt children for Christmas presents. The Salvation Army shares its list with other agencies to avoid duplications.
Rev. Hargrove said 500 children helped by the mission throughout the year have registered for toys this year with more requests coming in each day. They hope to serve 550 children, about 250 less than last year. Parents who sign up for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree are not eligible for the West Main Mission toys.
Crawford said people like to buy toys for smaller children but Crawford said they need toys like bikes and scooters for kids in the 7- to 12-year-old range.
Angel Tree drop off sites are located throughout Murfreesboro and Rutherford County.
Johnson said the Home Builders Association members are working with the U.S. Marines, World Outreach Church and Murfreesboro Fire Department to collect enough toys for children. About 128 boxes are located throughout Rutherford County, including all Dollar General stores and most banks.
“We always need toys,” Johnson said. “It’s harder and harder to raise funds with the economy.”
Johnson said people can help by donating new toys in the drop boxes or by sending contributions to the Rutherford County Home Builders Care Toys for Tots, 730 Middle Tennessee Boulevard, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37129.
They also need volunteers to separate the toys before the children arrive and to pass out the toys to children Dec. 19. People who can volunteer are asked to call 898-6762.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s a lot of work,” Johnson said. “It’s well worth all the effort. All the aches and pains seem to go away that day.”
Crawford said a golf tournament at Champions Run Golf Course contributed 6,000 to 7,000 items for Christmas. Individuals are buying gifts to supplement the Angel trees.
Parents will receive their children’s toys Dec. 17 and 18 by appointment only.
People who want to contribute toys may drop the toys off at the Salvation Army located at the corner of West Main Street and New Salem Highway or donate the to bell ringers with red kettles at different stores. Money collected from the kettles helps the Salvation Army throughout the year.
“We’ve been praying,” Crawford said, adding he’s confident people will respond.
Rev. Hargrove said this is the 31st year the mission has supplied toys to children in need.
“So far, we’re doing real well,” Rev. Hargrove said. “Nissan employees are our No. 1 supplier. They took 350 names. They will bring the toys next week.”
Charity Circle and St. Mark’s United Methodist Church donate a number of gifts for the remaining children.
However, the Mission is running short of toys for young teens ages 13 to 15.
“If anyone would like to help with that, that would be appreciated,” the Rev. Hargrove said.
Toys may be dropped off at the office during the day at 1400 B W. College St.
Besides the toys, Murfreesboro Police hope to distribute food baskets to 50 families.
Coordinator Sgt. Greg Walker asked all employees to contribute canned and non-perishable food items.
Families will be chosen based on recommendations from the Murfreesboro Housing Authority, Franklin Heights Precinct, Highland Heights Precinct, Boys & Girls Club, St. Claire Senior Center and any police officer that knows of a family who is in need of food for the holiday season.
Officers will pack the boxes and deliver the food Dec. 21.
Christine Huddleston, volunteer director for the Room in the Inn for the past 26 years, said she expects about 30 homeless people to be housed in the shelter for Christmas.
A Williamson County banker will supply toys for some 16 children.
“Santa Claus comes by on Christmas Eve,” Huddleston said. “We try to make it as home as you and I know it.”
People staying in the shelter now include a mother with six children ranging in age from 5 to 12, two sisters with four children, a mother with three children, a mother with one child and six single women. Most of the adults work.
Room in the Inn operates solely on donations. About 80 churches supply food to the homeless people each night.
The city of Murfreesboro supplies the building.
“The city’s so kind to me,” Huddleston said. “That’s a blessing.”
Huddleston also feels blessed by contributions from General Mills’ the Doughboy Run, McFadden School, World Outreach Church, DoubleTree Hotel and Emerson Electric.
The shelter relies on Christmas donations to help throughout the year. Some of the greatest needs include:
• Styrofoam plates, bowls, sauces and cups and plastic forks, knives and spoons.
• Toilet tissue, napkins, paper towels.
• Towels and washcloths.
• Personal hygiene items such as deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes.
• Laundry detergent.
• Cash donations to pay for the utility bills that doubled during the past year.
People may mail or deliver donations to Room in the Inn at 640 W. Main St., Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37130.
Huddleston feels the effects of people cutting back during the present economy, but she firmly believes people should help each other.
“Jesus Christ was homeless,” Huddleston noted. “I think the foxes have holes, the birds have nests but the Savior had no place to lay his head. I think it’s just something I look at as a commandment even though it’s not one of the 10. We take care of the less fortunate.”
Lisa Marchesoni may be reached at 869-0814 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.