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Volunteers keep holiday giving on track

Volunteers from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Daniel Boone High School ROTC played an integral role in making Christmas brighter for many families.
Both were hard at work during distribution day for the Salvation Army Angel Tree gifts and the Johnson City Press Christmas food boxes, which was held Dec. 19 at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray.
Two Community Service buses have been bringing inmates from the Detention Center to pack boxes at the fairgrounds since Dec. 1, according to Capt. Greg Matherly of the WCSO.
A third bus was added on distribution day to provide assistance in transporting the gifts.
“The bus drivers have taken a lead on this, and I’m so proud of them,” Matherly said, referring to Deputies Keith Hogan and Mike Tisor.
Following the return deadline, all of the gifts Angel Tree sponsors purchase for their adoptees are loaded onto trucks and taken to the fairgrounds.
“Our job is to pack,” Matherly said. Community Service units review the lists from the children for each box to ensure all of the items are included.
Other gifts that have been donated in bulk are available for use if more items for the box are needed.
In addition to ensuring the boxes are packed correctly, the units must be careful to keep them in the alphabetical order needed for pickup.
A successful distribution day requires an orchestrated effort. Pickup begins at 7:30 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m.
Matherly said the recipients are scheduled alphabetically in 30-member groups for pickup during designated 45-minute time slots.
Angel Tree boxes are in the first building, and the Johnson City Press Christmas food boxes are in the second, with bicycles purchased for Angel Tree adoptees, most of which had to be assembled, waiting in the third.
Community Service units assist in carrying and loading the boxes into the recipients’ cars.
“There is definitely a need for speed,” Matherly said, referring to keeping the lines moving so cars don’t get backed up, causing delays.
County Commissioner Tom Krieger has been involved with the project for more than 20 years, and said the WCSO has always provided support from the Detention Center.
Krieger said he requested a few more deputies this year to assist with parking during an event that needs to be streamlined as much as possible with so many cars and people coming through.
“Cars that were parked far away required the boxes to be carried a longer distance, which also took up time,” he said, referring to last year’s event.
Matherly put out a call to the Daniel Boone High School ROTC for additional manpower. “We have such a good relationship with them, and they are always willing to help,” he said, adding the community service hours they provide go toward earning rank.
Being part of the event is also a good experience for the students, Matherly said. “It’s showed me what the community is willing to do for the community.”