The annual Christmas Clearinghouse, through which needy Blount County residents can sign up for Empty Pantry Fund food baskets and toys for ages birth to 14 through Junior Service League of Maryville’s Toys for Blount County, begins Monday, Sept. 24.

It will continue through Thursday, Sept. 27, or until all food baskets and toys are designated.

Both community organizations plan to serve 1,400 families this year.

Telephone lines will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Those in need may call 865-995-8073, 865-995-8074, 865-995-8075, 865-995-8090 or 865-995-8091 to register. If the line is busy, applicants are urged to call again and continue calling until one of the volunteers manning the phone lines can answer. Reservations are taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

Be ready

To make the process go more smoothly, individuals should have the following information ready when they call:

• Full name of each family member in the home.

• Current street address and directions to the home.

• Two telephone numbers.

• Food stamp number or proof of financial need.

• Names, ages and genders of each child and the schools (if any) they attend.

The only qualifications for signing up are that the family or individuals reside in Blount County and are in need.

Those who do not have a food stamp number are asked to provide the name and contact information for a reference who knows their situation, such as a pastor, teacher, counselor, case worker, etc.

A Spanish-speaking volunteer will be available from 8-10 a.m. ,Sept. 26 and 5-8 p.m., Sept. 27, at 865-995-8074.

Serving Blount County

Toys for Blount County is Junior Service League of Maryville’s major project since taking over a Christmas toy drive in 1972. The organization provides toys to eligible Blount County families with children up to 14 years of age. Bethany Blair and Paige Krom are co-chairs of Toys for Blount County this year.

“We will be set up to take calls for both Empty Pantry Fund and Toys for Blount County,” Blair said, emphasizing that people who are signed up to receive toys from another organization may still call and register to receive foods through the Empty Pantry Fund, which is sponsored by The Daily Times.

Two phone numbers will be operative on Tuesdays in October for late call-ins or if those already registered have a change of address, phone number or circumstances.

“This will be on Tuesdays from 6-8 p.m.,” Blair said. These numbers are 865-995-8074 and 865-995-8075.

Blair has been a member of Junior Service League for five years and has served on the Toys for Blount County board for the past three years.

“From the beginning, I felt drawn toward the toy part of it,” Blair said. Her daughters, Evie, 11, and Macie, 8, students at Alcoa Middle and Alcoa Elementary, respectively, are involved in the project, as well.

“Every year, they have helped with the packing, and every year, they have gone on deliveries with me. I think it’s such a wonderful thing to teach your children. Giving can touch so many people,” Blair said.

Empty Pantry Fund, founded in 1952 as a collaboration of The Daily Times and what is now called the Blount County Jaycees, provides food baskets for residents in need at Christmas. The 2018 EPF fundraising campaign will kick off on Sunday, Nov. 4.

Empty Pantry Fund packing will take place Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Tennessee Army National Guard Armory, and food baskets and Toys for Blount County will be delivered by volunteers on Sunday, Dec. 16.

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