DOBSON — Thanks to the generosity of the community, Sheriff Graham Atkinson says organizers are close to their goal of being able to provide food and Christmas gifts to more than 500 needy children in the area.
The effort is part of the annual Sheriff’s Christmas Fund, which has been under way for about two decades. Since its inception, it has been spearheaded by Atkinson, who witnessed the need first-hand during his time as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer in the county school system.
That realization led him to coordinate the Christmas Fund, where donations are collected from businesses and individuals in the county, food boxes are packed by officers and county residents, and gifts are purchased and delivered.
But the need is continually growing, Atkinson said, noting that last year they helped about 400 children in the county.
“This year, we’d wanted to provide food and gifts to 500 children, but over the past few days we’ve identified about 10 more who need our help,” he said Tuesday morning.
With the additional expense, Atkinson said donations are needed more than ever.
“We’re spending about $100 on each child,” he noted. Typically, each child has received about $100 worth of essential clothing and a couple of Christmas gifts based on a list provided by their family.
But the sheriff’ said he is confident that once again the community will rally behind the effort.
“We actually have had a really good couple of days as far as donations,” he said. “I stopped by Surry Drug in Dobson on personal business (Monday), and didn’t know they’d been selling tickets to raffle off a television. As I stopped by, I was asked to draw the winner of the TV and they gave me the proceeds of the raffle.”
In addition, a local businessman who wishes to be nameless provided what Atkinson called a “significant donation.”
“We also had a church hold a supper Sunday night and we got all the proceeds,” he said.
With that kind of help, Atkinson said he hopes to reach the goal, although he is “about five percent” under what he needs.
“It looks right now that if things stay consistent this week we will be able to do what we had hoped to do,” he said. “We’re still about five percent short of what we need, but I’m confident that will come in.”
But time is running out.
This year, Atkinson will join the community to pack food boxes Saturday morning in the lobby of Surry Central High School. The packing will get under way at 8 a.m.
Deputies and community members will be shopping for the children at 8 a.m., on Dec. 10, at the Mount Airy Wal-Mart.
The sheriff said the community is welcome to come participate.
“Anyone who wants to come out and help us with the shopping or packing is more than welcome,” he said. “And for those who aren’t comfortable shopping, we’ll have a lot of items that need to be bagged, loaded and transported. We certainly have a job for you if you aren’t a shopper.”
Atkinson said the annual effort is one of his favorites because it involves the community.
“One hundred percent of what we get is spent on the kids,” he said. “There are no administrated costs coming out. Every dime goes to the children.
“This is a community event that the sheriff’s office helps organize. That’s what makes it special.”
Anyone wishing to donate can drop off their donation at the sheriff’s office in Dobson, located at 218 N. Main Street, or can send it to Christmas Fund, c/o Surry County Sheriff’s Office, P.O. Box 827, Dobson, N.C., 27017. Checks should be made payable to Surry County Sheriff’s Office Christmas Fund.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.