Rowan County Democrats celebrate holidays at Rowan Helping Ministries

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 20, 2018

SALISBURY — In a venue many would deem unconventional, members of the Rowan County Democratic Party gathered Wednesday to celebrate the holiday season.

Their location? Jeannie’s Kitchen at Rowan Helping Ministries, where the Democrats shared food and fellowship alongside shelter guests — regardless of their political affiliation, of course.

“We don’t care,” said the Democratic Party event coordinator Whitney Bost. “Anyone who’s in need, we want to help. … This event is about giving back to the community, and that’s what we as the Democratic Party are about.”

The celebration offered more than fun and festivities. Party members had used the previous three weeks to gather donations of warm socks, gloves, hats and clothing, as well as toys for the shelter’s youngest guests.

Leslie Parker, a member of the Democratic Party, said the annual gathering was “heartwarming.” She’s participated for a few years and said the group is always received warmly.

Erica Taylor, community relations manager for Rowan Helping Ministries, said the holiday function helps meet several needs of those the shelter serves.

“When I coordinated with Whitney, I told her what our urgent needs were and what would be most useful and could actually be accepted into the shelter, too,” she said. “She was very purposeful in her gift giving … while also giving some fun stuff for the kids, too.”

Bost said the Democrats have been hosting similar parties for about eight years. The donations offer a little holiday magic guests might not receive otherwise, she said.

Taylor said the shelter does not usually accept donations of toys for lack of storage capacity. Toy donations are instead taken to other nonprofit groups like Prevent Child Abuse Rowan or the Salvation Army.

But the holiday party is an opportunity for the shelter’s youngest guests to help themselves to a special treat. After a shared time of cake and refreshments, they can each take two items from an array of Democratic donations.

When all have had an opportunity to pick and choose, the rest is up for grabs.

“Once everyone’s gotten two items, it kind of becomes a free-for-all,” said Bost with a smile. “But everyone leaves here happy.”

She said that last year, an older shelter guest was able to help himself to some of the toys before approaching her:

“He said, ‘I’m going to be able to give my grandchildren Christmas presents this year.”