By John Bailey
HICKORY – Because of the pandemic, it may have looked a little different, and it may have run a little different, but the Catawba County Christmas Bureau continued its mission in 2020 of helping families in need during the holidays.
This year that meant helping 667 families representing 1,458 children ages 0-12 and 398 teens ages 13-18.
The Christmas Bureau is an annual collaborative effort by dozens of local organizations along with nearly 100 volunteers who pool their resources to provide toys, clothing, food cards and coats to children and teenagers during the Christmas season.
To ensure social distancing, the event was held at the Hickory Metro Convention Center on Dec. 14 and 15 as a drive thru for families.
“I think the new system worked great considering all things 2020,” The Salvation Army in Hickory’s Major Rebecca Trayler said. She organized and oversaw the new distribution system this year. “It was pretty much created out of necessity but was well received.”
Richard Barber said this was the first time his family, which includes seven children, reached out for help from the Christmas Bureau.
“2020 hasn’t been the best year for everybody, so with all of the difficulties the year has brought, along with other financial problems that come with businesses closing down or limited work, it just made things more difficult this year,” Barber said. “We’re trying our best to keep our heads above water, and this provides another float for us to utilize.”
The primary partners for the 2020 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, Fire Departments Assisting Bike Assembly, 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.
Trayler said all the Christmas Bureau clients go through an interview process, and it is clear many of them live paycheck to paycheck.
“So where would extra Christmas money even come from, especially this year? Many parents are humbled by their Christmas Bureau experience,” the Major said.
“We’ve often heard, ‘I’ve always given, and I never thought I’d be here asking.’ We always remind parents that this is a hand up, not a handout.”
Catawba County United Way Executive Director Jennie Connor appreciates the application process for the Christmas Bureau, which qualifies families based off income or other extenuating circumstances like a house fire.
“This process makes sure we’re serving those who need it the most in our county every year, which is especially important in the face of the current pandemic,” Connor said.
To learn more about the annual Christmas Bureau call the Catawba County United Way at 828-327-6851 or visit Facebook.com/catawbacountyunitedway.