DOBSON — For nearly 400 Surry County children, and some 250 families, Santa Claus doesn’t wear a red suit, but a brown uniform.
Since the early 1990s the Surry County Sheriff’s Office has been collecting donations and delivering food boxes, clothes and toys to residents of the county who might not have Christmas without their efforts — and the generosity of area businesses and residents who support the annual Christmas Fund.
“Last year we bought gifts for 375 children,” said Sheriff Graham Atkinson. “We’re expecting that number to be larger this year. It’s grown every year since 2008.”
Atkinson has spearheaded the effort since he was a D.A.R.E. officer when the program began.
At that time he noticed first-hand the needs experienced by some of the children in the county.
“I saw children who needed coats and other clothing, children who were not expecting to get gifts for Christmas, and children who were not going to having a big holiday dinner,” he said.
That awareness helped to drive the efforts for the Christmas Fund.
Donations were collected from individuals and businesses in the county, food boxes were packed by volunteers on a Saturday morning, and gifts for children were delivered to the schools under an effort coordinated with school social workers.
Today, the schools coordinate with the Salvation Army to help community donations reach more families, but the effort is still a comprehensive one.
“We’re planning on 250 food boxes,” Atkinson said. “These will go to the families of the children getting gifts and a number of area residents who are elderly or shut-in.
“We also hope to spend $100 per child on needed clothes and a few gifts for each of the children. We’d like to spend more as that amount we started out with nearly 20 years ago,” he added.
But today, the focus is on raising money for this effort.
“We’ve raised less than a third of what we’re going to need,” Atkinson said, “and time is running short. Things are a little tight.”
Because of the timing of Christmas, on a Tuesday, the boxes and gifts need to be ready a little earlier to go out in advance of the weekend.
“We’ll be putting the boxes together on Dec. 8, and probably spend $9,000 on food,” he said. “These boxes are very important to a lot of children. They eat breakfast and lunch at school and when they are not in school, they could be going hungry without this extra food during the holidays.”
Packing of food boxes also involves community volunteers, including the Surry Community College baseball team, and is done in the front lobby at Surry Central High School. “Anyone wanting to do some service work is welcome to join us that morning at 8:30 a.m. to put the boxes together.”
Volunteers are also welcome for the shopping for clothes and gifts, which will take place at 8:30 a.m., Dec. 11, at Wal-Mart in Mount Airy.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the Christmas fund may mail them to Christmas Fund, c/o Surry County Sheriff’s Office, P.O. Box 827, Dobson, NC 27017.
Checks should be made payable to Surry County Sheriff’s Office Christmas Fund.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.