North Surry Air Force Junior Officers Training Corps (JROTC) cadets quick response team fell quickly into step in the Christmas season by helping Wednesday at the Salvation Army’s distribution center for its annual family Christmas cheer project.
Chairwoman for the project, Sharon Reid, said this year around 1,049 families participated in the project. She said she had seen an increase in families applying for the “angel packages.” She said a total of 2,600 children will receive gifts from the project.
“This was a total community effort,” said Reid. “We’ve had a lot more community support this year.”
Reid said the army’s effort is greatly aided by a variety of groups and organizations including the cadets, which participated in the effort even before there was a response team. She said property owner Rick Vaughn donated the use of the building across from the state employment security commission this year.
“This is the first time for the rapid response team helping with this event, and the fifth year the cadets themselves have been involved,” said 1st Sgt. Ken Geotzke. “I think this gives them a sense of accomplishment. This is the first of several things we’ll have the team taking part in.”
Geotzke said cadets who participated included Riley Roundy, Ryan Singleton, Philip Hiatt, Justin Angel, Austin Critz, Amiee Whitt and James Gullatt.
Salvation Army Maj. Susan Rodgers explained angel trees are usually put out right after Thanksgiving at several locations in the county with gift requests on the angel-shaped ornaments. Locations for the angel trees include Walmart in both Mount Airy and Elkin as well as the Mount Airy U.S. Post Office, Aunt Beas in Pilot Mountain, McDonalds in Elkin, Surry Bank and Trust and the Cross Creek Country Club.
The gifts were due back by Dec. 12 this year which left volunteers about a week to get everything organized, sorted and packed at the distribution center.
“We have always enjoyed the North Surry cadets’ help, and we’ve had a great response of volunteers,” added Rodgers. “Many of our clients are not able to carry these heavy bags because we bundle the entire family’s gifts together and the cadets are great to help out with that. The community here is very good about helping. They’re response has been tremendous.”
Rodgers said the Salvation Army’s efforts also are aided by programs including Toys for Tots, Surry County and Mount Airy City schools and the Surry County Sheriff’s Office. She said all of these resources combined help them to meet the yearly Christmas need.
She said it’s not just a matter of getting the angel tree lists filled and back, it’s a need that can only be met with the resources of many combined.
“I want to stress that the toys for children are not divided up,” stated Rodgers. “Everything on the angel tree lists for each child goes only to that child. There is no dividing of toys. Occasionally if it looks unbalanced with toys going to siblings, we’ll add to toys. There is no dividing of toys.”
North Surry JROTC Lt. Col. John Bowes said one of the cadets’ yearly goals was to create a cadet quick response team.
“The number one goal of this team is to provide help to members of the community that have an urgent need but do not have the resources to deal with it,” said Bowes. “We want to help those in the community with legitimate needs. That’s what JROTC is all about.” He said, for example, the team would respond to remove a fallen tree on a disabled person’s property or fill positions at a local soup kitchen that can’t get enough volunteers.
Bowes indicated the team is available to anyone in the community who has experienced a crisis they cannot deal with themselves from a physical, mental or financial complication. Persons requesting the help of the cadets may call North Surry High School at 789-5055 and ask for the JROTC department. Cadet leaders will call back to discuss a plan of action to help.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.