For well over a decade, the Surry County Sheriff’s Office has collected money for a Christmas fund to benefit local families. The money goes to purchase presents and clothes for children and food for needy families.
The office began this year’s campaign in October by sending out letters to potential contributors asking for donations. Sheriff Graham Atkinson said the office would love to get donations in by Dec. 8.
In recent years the office has helped out close to 300 children a year. So far this year the office has collected 250 names. Atkinson estimates his office will buy presents for anywhere from 300 to 350 kids. He expects around 250 families to receive food.
The sheriff said he thought last year would be the peak year for need, but he has been surprised this year.
“I think there’s a lot more need than there was last year,” said Atkinson.
The office prefers to receive monetary donations instead of presents. That allows volunteers to use the money to pick out the specific presents that the children have requested.
“We want them to have Christmas just like every other kid,” Atkinson remarked.
The names of needy students all they way up to 12th grade are primarily provided by local schools. Sometimes deputies identify families with legitimate needs when they are running calls. All of the names are run by the Salvation Army to keep people from receiving Christmas services from both organizations.
On Dec. 13, officers and community volunteers will go to Wal-Mart to purchase the majority of the gifts. The office takes along a list of specific gifts to buy, and volunteers and store employees help gather all of the items. The office has special deals with Wal-Mart and other merchants, so the money has more buying power for this operation.
After all of the items are purchased, officers given them to the schools who try to distribute the gifts quietly to parents so the children think they’re just having a normal Christmas.
The limit to spend on each child has been $100 for a few years now, but Atkinson said he would like that to change.
“We would like to up that a little,” said Atkinson. “$100 doesn’t buy what it used to.”
The office also plans to spend $6,000 to $7,000 on food for families that need it most. Much of the food is bought in bulk. Atkinson said he wants to make sure kids have plenty of food to eat during their Christmas break from school.
“It’s incredible how many go without food during that time,” he said.
Atkinson said the Christmas fund started on a small scale while Bill Hall was the sheriff. The operation was rejuvenated in 1994. Atkinson used to teach D.A.R.E. in schools, and he got to see firsthand the needs of students. He remembers in particular how one kid in the fifth grade had been wearing the same outfit every day since the third grade.
If people don’t feel comfortable giving to the sheriff’s office, Atkinson urges them to give somehow.
“If not us, then pick out another legitimate organization and give to them, because we’re working together to make sure that needs are met in the community.”
Donations have started to come in, but Atkinson said many of the donations are in lower amounts than they were last year.
“It’s all about faith. We just don’t know where it’s coming from, but it always, always comes from somewhere,” said Atkinson.
One year the sheriff got a call from a man he didn’t even know who donated $5,000 to the cause and convinced other businesses to give.
To donate to the Christmas fund, people can stop by the Surry County Sheriff’s Office in Dobson or mail checks to P.O. Box 827, Dobson, NC 27017. Checks should be made out to Sheriff’s Office Christmas Fund. For more information, contact the Surry County Sheriff’s Office at 401-8900. Groups may also contact the office if they are interested in helping shop for toys on Dec. 13.
Contact Meghann Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.