The Christmas Cheer crew is not letting the coronavirus pandemic get in the way of its mission of making sure every child in Burke County has a present to open on Christmas.
The organization has dedicated itself to providing Christmas presents to children in need from birth to age 17 each year for more than 90 years. Parents who cannot otherwise provide presents for their children are invited to the annual Christmas Cheer distribution, taking place Dec. 9-10 on the lower level of the Collett Street Recreation Center in Morganton this year.
Volunteers have planned for a safe, socially distanced event to help keep participants healthy amid the pandemic.
“Because we use so many of our senior citizens as our volunteers, we had to be very careful to be sure we’re protecting their health,” said Betty McCurry, treasurer for Christmas Cheer. “Our volunteers will be wearing masks, gloves and face shields.”
The most notable change to the distribution will be the absence of actual toys. Instead, parents will be given gift certificates to local stores that sell toys so they can purchase their children’s gifts. They will receive a $20 certificate for each child.
“We’re not sure yet how many stores we’re going to have to participate in this, so we have not determined exactly what the choices will be, but the parents will get a choice of where they want to shop,” McCurry said.
Christmas Cheer will still give out bicycles, but only one per family. A child who receives a bicycle will not be able to receive a gift certificate. The Men’s Club of Morganton is providing the bicycles, as it does each year.
To participate, parents must arrive at the recreation center during their designated time, which is determined by the first letter of their last name. Due to city and state regulations, only a small number of people will be allowed in the center at one time; McCurry advised people who attend to dress warmly, as they will be required to wait outside and social distance until it is their turn to enter. Everyone will be required to wear masks and use hand sanitizer that will be provided at the door.
“We ask that only one member of the family come, and please don't bring your children,” McCurry said.
To receive gift certificates, parents will be required to show a photo ID of themselves and some form of ID for each child, such as a birth certificate, Social Security card or insurance card.
The distribution times are:
- Last name beginning with F, G, H: 8-10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9.
- Last name beginning with I, J, K, L: 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Dec 9.
- Last name beginning with M, N: noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec 9.
- Last name beginning with O, P, Q, R: 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec 9.
- Last name beginning with S, T: 8-10 a.m. Thursday, Dec 10.
- Last name beginning with U, V, W, X, Y, Z: 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Dec 10.
- Last name beginning with A, B: noon to 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec 10.
- Last name beginning with C, D, E: 2-4 p.m. Thursday, Dec 10.
- Late session for anyone who missed their session: 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Dec 10.
McCurry said Christmas Cheer served 1,850 children last year.
“We have a lot of people who come for the first time and they’re embarrassed, but we don’t want them to be,” McCurry said. “We want them to come and feel welcomed, loved and supported. We want to celebrate the gift of the Christ child in this season of giving. We want to share the love of God and the hope and joy of the holiday season to all of those families who are struggling to provide for their families at Christmas.”
Those interested in supporting Christmas Cheer can mail monetary donations year-round to P.O. Box 3745, Morganton, NC 28655.
Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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