Christmas Happiness begins, bringing holiday cheer for children in need
Every year, Rowan County residents dig into their wallets and purses to help children have a better Christmas through the Christmas Happiness Fund.
The contributions come at a time when Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday sales abound. And leading into the holiday season is Giving Tuesday, a day devoted to giving back.
But the Christmas Happiness Fund is an opportunity for residents to go beyond the holiday sales and give back to where local children reap the benefits.
The Christmas Happiness Fund was started 65 years ago by then-Salisbury Post editor Spencer Murphy. He heard about a number of children who would not receive gifts on Christmas and felt compelled to write a column asking for the community to give any amount. Rowan County residents have been giving ever since to the Christmas Happiness Fund.
The money is donated at the Salisbury Post, then turned over to the Salvation Army of Rowan County, which distributes it to eligible families. Families receive a gift card or voucher that is used at a local retailer to buy either clothing or toys.
In 2016, the community contributed a total of $56,594.57, raising more than $1,071 over the previous year.
The money will be collected through November and in December. Any money collected after the holidays is used to begin a fund for the following year.
Last year, 615 families signed up for assistance. This year, Salvation Army Capt. NaKisha Carr estimates 600 to 700 families will be served, or more than 1,000 children.
“It’s not just those on government assistance. The biggest portion of the people are working or those who are underemployed. It’s a combination of people who have downsized from companies,” Carr said.
She said some people have had their income reduced but their expenses remain the same.
“That’s really hard,” she said.
Carr said many residents are struggling to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table, and there just isn’t room for extras like the holidays.
“No gift is too small,” Carr said.
She said the money stays in Rowan County and goes toward the purchase of items and toys for children who live here.
Those who apply for help must bring the following kinds of information:
• A current N.C. picture ID or driver’s license.
• If an ID is expired, bring a lease and utility bill.
• Birth certificate for all children 12 and younger.
• Current Medicaid card.
• Proof of all income and expenses.
• Food and Nutrition verification letter.
• Unemployment benefits letter.
• Custody papers, if the person applying is a guardian.
The Rowan County United Way coordinates the Christmas Bureau, now in its fourth year of taking applications for several agencies.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.
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