Two organizations working together to serve Blount County’s less-fortunate residents at Christmas will begin registration for food baskets and toys at 8 a.m. Monday, Sept. 20.

The Empty Pantry Fund, started in 1952 as a collaboration between The Daily Times and the Blount County Jaycees, and Toys for Blount County, a project of Junior Service League of Maryville, which provides toys for children from birth through age 14, will hold their annual Christmas Clearinghouse from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday, Sept. 23. Registration will continue until all food baskets and toys are designated.

Lines open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Telephone lines will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each of the four days. Those in need may call 865-393-4912, 865-393-4923, 865-337-3333, 865-340-3963 or 865-356-2604. 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.

Spanish-speaking volunteers will be available from 1-2 p.m. each day and also from 8-10 a.m. Sept. 21 and 5-7 p.m. Sept. 23 on a dedicated line, 865-356-2604.

Must reside in Blount

Patty Ramsey, Toys for Blount County chair along with Julie Garner, said, “The only requirement is that people live in Blount County. If you have a need, call.”

Applicants may sign up for food only or for food and toys and will be asked to provide full names of each family member in the home, current street address, two telephone numbers, school each child attends and age of each child at Christmas this year.

The distribution process shortly before Christmas Day will continue to follow procedures began in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’re asking people to pick up their items on Saturday, Dec. 18,” Ramsey said. “Times will be based on their last name, and that information will be given when they register.” As in 2020, the food and toys may be picked up at the Tennessee Army National Guard Armory at 1721 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville.

Some areas, such as Maryville Housing Authority facilities, as well as shut-ins unable to come to the armory, will have their items delivered by volunteers on Sunday, Dec. 19.

More information will be given during clearinghouse registration.

One telephone line, 865-393-4912, will remain open after clearinghouse closes. “If someone needs to make changes or register late, that line will be active through December,” Ramsey said.

To learn more about the toy project or to make a donation, visit the JSL website at www.jslofmaryville.org. The Empty Pantry Fund will kick off its 2021 fundraising campaign Nov. 7, although donations are accepted all year. Learn more about EPF or make a donation via PayPal by visiting the website at www.emptypantryfund.com or see the Facebook page.

Toys for Blount County provides toys to eligible families with children ages’ from birth to 14 years. Empty Pantry Fund provides food baskets to eligible families or individuals. To qualify, you must live in Blount County and be able to provide the following:

• Full name of each family member

• Current address

• Two phone numbers

• The school each child attends

• The age each child will be at Christmas.

Reservations for toys and/or food baskets are on a first come, first-served basis. To reserve toys and/or a food basket for your family or yourself, call the Christmas Clearinghouse at 865-393-4912.

Contact Linda Braden Albert with story ideas at LindasInkyfingers@comcast.net.

Life columnist

Linda Braden Albert worked as a feature writer and editor at The Daily Times. She is now the editor of Horizon Magazine and a columnist.

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