An Angel Tree at the County Courthouse in Smithfield. The tree is decorated with wish lists from needy residents, mostly young foster children or older people without families.
Johnston residents have plenty of options for giving back this season, including food and toy drives sponsored by churches, businesses and civic groups.
Johnston County government, meanwhile, is staging its annual Angel Tree drive, which collects gifts and necessities for kids in foster care, the elderly and the children of teen mothers.
The program takes its name from the Christmas trees placed by the county in 11 locations, mostly businesses like the Walmart stores in Clayton and Smithfield. Each tree is adorned with cards containing “wish lists” for people enrolled in the program. The lists include the name and age of each recipient, along with clothing sizes and a number.
People who want to make donations just take a card off the tree, purchase the items listed and bring them back to the store where they got the card. Each item must be tagged with the number included on the card so the Department of Social Services knows where to send it. DSS prefers the presents unwrapped.
Tony Harris, a foster-care licensing supervisor in the department, said Angel Tree is serving about 240 people this year. Most of them are small children, but about 100 of them are seniors in nursing homes, he said.
“They don’t have families, so we have people buy gifts for them and give it to them for the holidays,” Harris said.
Jamie Langston, a former foster child who now works for DSS, recalled being surprised one year with a laptop. She hadn’t asked for it, she said, but it helped her get through high school and college.
Most people, of course, don’t ask for pricey gifts, Langston said. “Mostly it’s clothes – clothes and shoes,” she said. “For the younger ones, they normally ask for diapers, wipes.”
Anyone with questions about the county’s Angel Tree program can call Harris at 919-631-3833.
The Town of Smithfield is holding a food drive for a couple of needy families in the community. The town is asking people to bring nonperishable food items to town offices, including town hall, the police and fire stations and the parks department at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center.
Last month, the town collected 1,100 food items in a Thanksgiving food drive. Each department adopted a family and collected enough food to stock their pantries for a month, said human-resources director Tim Kerigan.
“About 80 percent of that came from the employees,” Kerigan said. “We’d really like to invite the public to contribute as well.”
Other towns in the county are contributing to the Toys for Tots program run by the U.S. Marine Corps. The drive collects unwrapped toys for children of all ages.
The Selma police and fire departments are both participating. People can drop off toys at the police station, the fire station, town hall and the banks in Uptown Selma, said Fire Chief Phillip McDaniel.
The Selma Fire Department is also adopting a couple of families affected by house fires. One family was left homeless by a fire that torched their rental house; the other has a 16-year-old boy who was badly burned. The department is donating $250 to each family, but McDaniel wants to do more.
“We’re going to get with those two families and see what they need,” he said. “They may need things for Christmas; they may need help with light bills.”
Anyone interested in helping out can call the Selma Fire Department at 919-965-2697.
Four Oaks residents can drop off toys at town hall. The point of contact there is town clerk Sherry Hudson, 919-963-3112.