Democrats continue tradition of hosting Christmas party at Rowan Helping Ministries

Published 12:04 am Thursday, December 16, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County Democrats on Wednesday continued their annual tradition of hosting a Christmas party for the residents of Rowan Helping Ministries.

Last week, Democrats collected donations and gifts for the shelter, which included scarves, gloves, sweaters, hygienic and cosmetic products and toys for the children. Residents could also grab cake and snacks Wednesday during the party, held at 226 N. Long St.

Derrick Daniels, a guest at the shelter, said this is his first Christmas party there, and he almost didn’t want to attend because, like many others, he misses his family during this holiday season. He was happy he attended and witnessed his peers smile and enjoy the Christmas spirit.

“I didn’t think I was going to get a gift this year, or just that anybody even cared enough to come out and do this,” Daniels said. “(This) gives them hope.”

Peggy Young, who works at the shelter and was a guest until earlier this year, said past Christmas parties helped her gift grandchildren with toys. She added the impact can be felt, especially since many guests aren’t able to see their family for the holidays.

“I think this means a whole lot to them,” Young said. “I know when I was here it just lifted up my spirits.”

The shelter’s family unit recently reopened after it was closed throughout the pandemic to serve as a quarantine space for potential COVID-19 exposures. Families had been located off site, but at least one family is back at the shelter with the other guests.

“I like to see those little smiling faces on those kids,” Young said, adding that families returning has lifted the spirits of those at the shelter.

Retired educator P.J. Ricks said the Christmas party allows guests to choose their own products and avoid asking the shelter themselves. Additionally, allowing guests to feel like they’re part of a community means a lot, Ricks said.

“A lot of times this time of year, shelter guests miss their families more than any other time,” Ricks said. “And the Democratic Party coming today really touches their hearts. They know somebody in the community cares.”

Chariel Dye, vice chair of the Rowan County Democrats, said she’s been homeless before and endured situations similar to the shelter guests. Dye said it’s a civic duty to take care of fellow citizens, and she feels honored to give back. She added that continuing this tradition, along with other events at the shelter, allows Democrats to speak with guests about their needs and concerns.

“We care about the people. To me it’s our civic duty to get out and make sure that our citizens in our city are well taken care of,” Dye said. “It does no good for us to sit up on our high horse and the people we’re governing over ain’t doing as good as we are. That ain’t right.”

Also present at Wednesday’s party was East Spencer Mayor Pro Tem Shawn Rush and Alisha Byrd-Clark, vice-chair of the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education and a candidate for county commissioner next year. Dye encouraged shelter guests to exercise their right to vote during the primary election in May and general election in November.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.