BRISTOL, Tenn. — The deadline is fast approaching for anyone wishing to assemble and contribute Christmas care packages for area homeless veterans.
This year marks the 10th annual drive to aid the Tri-Cities homeless population who served in the U.S. military. The deadline to drop off is Tuesday because the items are scheduled to be delivered Dec. 21 to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Johnson City and area homeless shelters, founder April Barnes said Thursday.
“We average between 300 to 500 bags and over the last 10 years we’ve probably donated more than 4,000 bags to the homeless community,” Barnes said. “The community has just been wonderful to step up and be a part of it. It’s a great way to give back for the holiday season.”
Anyone interested in donating is asked to get a reusable cloth shopping bag and fill it with items such as fleece blankets, gloves, scarves, knit caps, socks, hygiene products, Bibles, note pads, pencils, games, hard candy, crossword puzzles and playing cards.
Many donors include Christmas cards with personal messages.
The region still has a substantial homeless population and a large number are veterans.
“I do know the numbers have gone down because there are some great organizations that help with our veterans, which is great,” Barnes said. “But there still is a need. And I just have a passion for our military and the people who serve.”
Barnes said multiple generations of her family served in the military.
“After touring Walter Reed [Army hospital] in 2008, I just wanted to come back and make a difference for men and women from our area, who have served,” she said. “It’s a great way to show that we appreciate them and that we care.”