Alternative Christmas Gift Program still going strong

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin

Salisbury Post

It was just over 12 years ago when Dr. Demming M. Ward started the Rowan County Medical Society Alternative Christmas Gift Program.

As a founding member of the Rowan Helping Ministries Board of Directors, Ward knew there were many people out there who couldn’t afford their prescription medicine or other medical needs, according to Executive Director Dianne Scott. “This was a way that he and his family could give back,” Scott says.

The way it works is that health care professionals, in lieu of giving Christmas gifts to each other, contribute to Rowan Helping Ministries in their honor. A card is then sent to the people in whose honor contributions are made.

Scott says Ward and his family addressed and sent out the cards. “He and his wife continue to do it,” she says. “He just takes it on as his personal project.”

Most people who serve on the board rotate off after six years and don’t stay involved. But even after he had served his time, Scott says Ward continued to support the efforts of Rowan Helping Ministries.

“He’s an angel,” she says, “very caring, very concerned. He and his family have stayed dedicated to making sure that we survive and continue to serve those in need.”

Since the Alternative Christmas Gift Program first started, Scott says $66,000 has been raised to pay for prescription medicine and unusual medical needs for needy families.

Examples of unusual medical needs include special testing for diabetes, hosiery and specialized equipment such as breathing apparatuses that “either their insurance won’t pay for or they can’t pay for.”

Last year, for example, she says Rowan Helping Ministries spent $30,600 on prescription medicine for needy people. In all, 30,429 different people have received medical assistance through the program.

Ward, who practices at Salisbury Internal Medicine, says the amount of contributions has progressively increased in the years the program’s been in existence.

“As there’s more and more need in the community for help with medication,” he says, “we’ve tried to increase our contributions. It’s been nice that we can share instead of just giving gifts to each other.”

Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or