DOBSON — Volunteers will be packing up boxes this weekend as part of the year’s annual Sheriff’s Christmas Fund, and the holiday shopping is slated for next week, but the money isn’t there to meet the need, according to officials with the Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve only got about two-thirds of the money we need,” said Sheriff Graham Atkinson. “We’re picking up the food items for 250 food boxes this week, and stuffing the food boxes Saturday morning.
“We have the money for that, but then we’ve also got 400 kids who are counting on us to have Christmas,” he added.
Shopping for the children, who are students in Surry County schools or their siblings, is planned for Tuesday morning.
Typically each child has received about $100 worth of essential clothing and a couple of gifts based on a list provided by the child’s family.
The food boxes go to elderly county residents, and the families of children who receive the gifts. Lists are compiled by social workers in the county’s schools, and coordinated with the Salvation Army to avoid duplication.
The effort by the sheriff’s office has been under way for nearly 20 years, and has been spearheaded by Atkinson since its inception when he was a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) officer. While working in the schools, he said he noticed first-hand the needs experienced by some of the children in the county, who often don’t have proper clothing for cold weather, and counted on school food programs to eat.
That realization led him to drive the efforts for the Christmas Fund. Donations were collected from individuals and businesses and the county, food boxes were packed by deputies and their families, and gifts were delivered to the schools after being coordinated with school social workers.
Atkinson said he is worried about this year’s effort.
“Time is running short,” he said. “Most of the same folks are donating as in the past, but they’ve given less and the need is growing. The same economic stress that results in more people in need is causing many of those who give to give a little less.”
Due to this year’s Christmas being on a Tuesday, the boxes and gifts need to be ready a little earlier in order to be able to deliver in advance of the schools’ holiday release.
“We’ll be putting the boxes together on Dec. 8, and will probably spend $9,000 on food,” Atkinson said. “These boxes are very important to a lot of children. They eat breakfast and lunch at school and when they’re not in school they could be going hungry without this extra food during the holidays.”
The packing effort will include volunteers from the community, including the Surry Community College baseball team, and is being done in the front lobby of Surry Central High School.
“Anyone wanting to do some service work is welcome to joint us that morning at 8:30, to put the boxes together,” Atkinson said.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the effort can mail a donation to Christmas Fund, c/o Surry County Sheriff’s Office, P.O. Box 827, Dobson, N.C., 27017. Checks should be made payable to the Surry County Sheriff’s Office Christmas Fund.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.