By BRIAN GRAVES
In a period of less than two weeks, the people of Cleveland and Bradley County have shown in an extraordinary way their compassion and generosity during a time when the meaning of a gift takes a more …
In a period of less than two weeks, the people of Cleveland and Bradley County have shown in an extraordinary way their compassion and generosity during a time when the meaning of a gift takes a more reverent tone.
The WCLE Empty Stocking Fund raised nearly $90,000 and distributed gifts to more than 1,000 area children last week.
Wednesday, the Salvation Army served more than 1,000 residents as they made their annual distributions derived from the annual “Angel Tree” drive.
The items came from those who had picked one of the “Angels” from the tree at Bradley Square Mall, and provided the items which were on the wish list.
Rooms full of toys, packages and bicycles were filled and ready to deliver as recipients of the area’s compassion stood in line on a rainy morning.
For the ninth straight year, students from Tennessee Christian Preparatory School served as “elves” helping to spread the holiday spirit.
Their shirts bore the Scripture from 1 Peter 4:10: “Use whatever gift you have received to serve others.”
Ruthie Forgey, SA commander, said it is all part of the Salvation Army’s motto which is “Service Above Self.”
“The numbers today are right at the most we have done in the past,” Forgey said.
“It’s what we come to work for every day,” she said. “It is about being able to reach out to people where we are their only hope for Christmas. We are the only hope they have to have something under their Christmas tree for their children.”
She noted that all Angel Tree requests are cross-referenced with the list of the Empty Stocking Fund so there is no duplication of services.
Forgey added that for some senior citizens, the Angel Tree drive represents their only hope for a new pair of shoes or a heavier blanket for the winter months.
“Even with the children, we make sure they get clothes, shoes and toyr in their packages,” she said. “The seniors request real simple things like toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as toilietries because many of them are on fixed incomes.”
Forgey said one senior citizen asked for a case of Spam “because she didn’t want to choose between medicine and food by the end of the month.”
“That’s the reality of what some of the seniors are dealing with because medications and fixed incomes are a reality,” she said. “If we can get some non-perishable foods to help them through the months, then we are happy to do that.”
“It is a blessing to be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a very practical way today — serving and praying — and then providing them with things they otherwise might not have had,” she said.
Forgey said that while the Salvation Army has the most visibility through the Christmas season, the work continues Dec. 26 and after.
“The kettles make people more generous, but we have people in need that walk through our door 365 days a year,” she said. “We meet needs 365 days a year.”
To that end, the associates at Walmart North recently held a food drive that will help restock the Salvation Army’s food pantry.
The drive, which lasted only a few days, was spearheaded by Roger Munson, personnel coordinator and Kathy Goode, training coordinator.
“They donated 105 bags of non-perishable foods totaling more than $800,” Forgey said. “We were able to replentish our shelves so that when we have an emergency food situation walk through the door, we have food to give.”
“This is a very caring community,” Forgey said. “The Empty Stocking Fund served over 1,000 children and we have over 1,000 children and seniors we are taking care of. We also had ‘Toys For Tots” which served hundreds of families. With that much need in Cleveland and Bradley County, we have so much generosity that all of these programs are taken care of. This is a very blessed community."
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