BY JOHN BAILEY
HICKORY – Michelle Price didn’t think the bikes headed her way were for her family, but when the Christmas Bureau volunteers stopped next to her car door, she was all smiles.
“My heart exploded,” she said. “We didn’t expect this.”
Michelle and her husband Clifton are the parents of two-and-a-half-year-old triplets.
They were both educators in local schools and were looking forward to having their first baby.
When they found out they were having triplets, Clifton stepped away from work to take care of their children while Michelle stayed on as a teacher.
“It is a phenomenal feeling to know that when push comes to shove there’s somebody here to help,” Clifton said.
And thoughtful, caring help was the story this past Monday and Tuesday during the Catawba County Christmas Bureau.
This year the program reached 679 families, representing 1,781 youth, ages 0-12 which included 412 teens ages 13-18.
The Christmas Bureau is an annual collaborative effort by dozens of local organizations along with hundreds of volunteers who pool their resources to provide toys, clothing, food and coats to children and teenagers during the Christmas season.
The event was again held at the Hickory Metro Convention Center as a drive thru for families.
Catawba County United Way Executive Director Mark Bumgarner said it was an honor to be a part of this process.
“To see it from beginning to end was astounding. The work, dedication and soul that goes into helping families in our county was inspiring,” he said. “For as long as I’ve kicked around this county, I had no idea what all was involved.”
He encourages all citizens to get involved next year.
“Make a donation, pick an angel off the trees and then come work with us in helping these families. It’s the best gift I’ve ever received,” Bumgarner said.
And the Christmas Bureau has a lot of moving parts, going from periodic meetings starting in January to distribution days in December.
Toys are gathered through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program and from Toys for Tots, while the Hickory Soup Kitchen makes sure every family receives a Food Lion gift card. Coats are collected at local dry cleaners and other sites throughout the county.
The Hickory Fire Department helps provide bikes for the event, while Century Furniture helps purchase tricycles.
The Catawba County United Way Teen Christmas program organizes dozens of volunteers and local resources to make sure there are gifts and clothes for teens ages 13-18. They also partner with Shurtape Technologies to provide special gifts for the teens.
The primary partners for the 2021 Catawba County Christmas Bureau included: Catawba County Sheriff's Dept., Catawba Co. Partnership for Children, Catawba Co. Dept. of Social Services, Catawba County United Way, Catawba County Schools, City of Hickory Fire Dept., Catawba County United Way Teen Christmas, Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry, Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry, Hickory Soup Kitchen, Hickory Public Schools, Marine Toys for Tots, Newton-Conover City Schools, The Salvation Army and Safe Kids Catawba County.
To learn more about the annual Christmas Bureau call the Catawba County United Way at 828-327-6851 or visit Facebook.com/catawbacountyunitedway.