Volunteers with Christmas Cheer are getting ready to make sure children in Burke County have a good Christmas.
The group’s annual toy distribution will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 11, and Thursday, Dec. 12, at a new location this year – the lower level of the Collett Street Recreation Center in Morganton, according to a letter advertising the event.
“We’re really excited about being able to have it in town,” said Betty McCurry, treasurer for Christmas Cheer. “I think it will be a more convenient location for our families, and it will have paved parking (as opposed to the Burke County Fairgrounds, the event’s previous location.)”
Parents in need who would like to pick out Christmas presents for their children ages birth to 17-years-old are invited to come to the session corresponding to the first letter of their last name. Each child is eligible to receive one toy and also a bicycle while supplies last. The sessions are scheduled as follows:
» Last name beginning with A, B, C, D or E: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11
» Last name beginning with F, G, H, I, J, K or L: 12:30-4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11
» Last name beginning with M, N, O, P, Q or R: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12
» Last name beginning with S, T, U, V, W, X, Y or Z: 12:30-4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12
Those who can’t make it to their scheduled session can come to a final session that will take place from 4-7 p.m. Thursday. In order to qualify to receive a bicycle for their children, however, parents would need to report during their original designated time.
In order to receive toys, parents must present a valid photo ID for themselves and ID for each one of their children. Forms of ID that will be accepted include a driver’s license, Social Security card, insurance card or a birth certificate.
Christmas Cheer is a longstanding tradition in Morganton going back 90 years, according to McCurry. She said the group helped 1,545 children last year, less than normal, since last year’s event was postponed due to a winter storm.
“We usually hit right about 2,000,” McCurry said.
In case of inclement weather during this year’s distribution, parents are instructed to listen to 92.1 FM WMNC for any schedule changes.
McCurry shared how appreciative parents are when they receive gifts for their children.
“They’re just so grateful,” she said. “I get hugs and tears. Some are embarrassed to be there. They say, ‘I’ve never done this before, but I really need it this year.’ We try to make them all feel very welcome and loved. We’re happy to assist them in selecting something for their children.”
There’s still time for people to help out with Christmas Cheer. The group will accept donations of new toys and bikes or gently-used bikes during the distribution. Anyone interested in volunteering to help distribute the toys should contact McCurry at 828-437-3200.
The Christmas Cheer Bike Crew collects used children’s bicycles year-round and refurbishes them.
“Thanks to the Outreach Center and other donors, at least 40 bicycles are ready to delight kids at Christmas,” said Art Webster, a member of the bicycle crew. “Before the crew runs out of bikes to work on, we ask that members of the community check around their homes for any outgrown or unused bicycles to donate to a good cause. Gently used bicycles can be dropped off at the downstairs North King Street entrance of the Collett Street Recreation Center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
He said anyone interested in helping to fix up the bikes can contact him at 904-451-3483.
The Men's Club of Morganton is holding its 12th annual Bikes 4 Kids campaign to support Christmas Cheer.
“We will have given nearly 2,600 bikes, helmets and big smiles to deserving kids in Burke County,” said club member Bill Branstetter. “We raise the funds for this campaign through individual donations, corporate gifts and group donations. The employees of Timberwoods restaurant have donated to this program for over 10 years. Member's Credit Union has been a major contributor for the last two years. A special thanks to the staff and customers at Morganton Ace Hardware for rounding up their purchase amount to support this great project.
“Most of us can remember what it felt like to get our first bicycle, and we love the thought of giving that feeling to a deserving child. A $55 donation can give that child a bike, a helmet and some great memories.”
Those interested can mail donations to The Men's Club of Morganton, P.O. Box 3825, Morganton, NC, 28680, drop off donations at Morganton Ace Hardware or donate online at www.mensclubofmorganton.org.
Christmas Cheer also accepts monetary donations year-round. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 3745, Morganton, NC, 28680, or dropped off at Morganton Savings Bank.
McCurry encouraged parents struggling financially this year to take advantage of this outreach.
“This is the season of giving, when we celebrate the gift of the Christ child,” she said. “Through Christmas Cheer, we’re sharing the love of God and the hope and joy of this holiday season with those families who are struggling to provide for their families at Christmas.”