The annual Christmas Clearinghouse, through which needy Blount County residents can sign up for Empty Pantry Fund food baskets and toys for children ages birth to 14 through Junior Service League of Maryville’s Toys for Blount County, begins Monday, Sept. 23.
It will continue through Thursday, Sept. 26, or until all food baskets and toys are designated.
Telephone lines will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Those in need may call 865-724-3800, 865-724-7493, 865-724-7575, 865-724-3707 or 865-724-6957 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.
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
• 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.
Information requested in past years was to provide food stamp numbers or proof of financial need. This year, Beth Hopkins, who co-chairs Toys for Blount County with Andrea Clapp, said, “We are going to verify need with a simpler question, ‘Do you receive assistance from another group sometime throughout the year?’ We don’t really need the food stamp number itself to verify the need, so it makes it easier for the applicants and easier for the persons taking the call.”
Applicants also will be asked if they have registered for toys with another organization for Christmas 2019. “This is to help cut down on duplicates,” Hopkins said. “A lot of times people are afraid they are not going to get accepted by an organization, so they’ll apply for multiples just hoping to get into one. We want to make it easier for them and confirm that if they’ve registered, they will get food from Empty Pantry Fund and Toys for Blount County.”
Applicants may sign up for food only or for food and toys.
A Spanish-speaking volunteer will be available from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 24 and from 8-10 a.m. Sept. 26 at 865-724-7575.
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 age 14.
“This is my third year in Junior Service League and my second year on the Toys for Blount County Board,” Hopkins said. “I chose to be involved with Junior Service League for a couple of reasons. The first, I feel like we’re called to provide service to the community, and if you can help, you should help. I chose to go into leadership through toys because it’s our core mission of what we provide.
“The second is, I really like the aspect of planning and supply chain management,” she said. “I don’t do that in my regular job, so I thought that would be an interesting skill and something fun to do.” Hopkins is employed as a business manager for a Knoxville health care company.
Hopkins said Empty Pantry Fund will distribute about 1,400 food baskets, and JSL will provide toys for about 1,200 children.
She urges the community to support Empty Pantry Fund and Toys for Blount County. To learn more about the toys, she said, “They can call me and we’ll gladly explain what we do and how we can use their help, and even explore opportunities for them to help.” Call her at 865-765-2135.
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 2019 EPF fundraising campaign will kick off on Sunday, Nov. 3. Empty Pantry Fund packing will take place Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Tennessee Army National Guard Armory, and food baskets and Toys for Blount County will be delivered by volunteers on Sunday, Dec. 15.
Learn more about the Empty Pantry Fund by visiting the website, www.emptypantryfund.com.