November 13, 2008 issue

Hunger and Health Coalition Offers Plenty of Ways To Help Your Neighbors

Compiled by Kathleen McFadden

Just about everyone’s feeling the pinch these days, but many families in Watauga County are struggling even more than usual to put food on the table and keep the house warm. Just last month, the Hunger and Health Coalition added 111 new food assistance clients, and that’s a record according to Executive Director Compton Fortuna.

In response, the Hunger and Health Coalition is offering a number of ways to help needy families make it through the next few months and have a pleasant holiday season. These opportunities range from the simple to the more involved and give everyone the opportunity to contribute. From playing Bingo to donating food to volunteering at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner to adopting a family to purchasing a Christmas music CD, the Hunger and Health Coalition has come up with a barrel full of inexpensive, but meaningful opportunities to give a little that will add up to a lot.

Bingo at Earth Fare November 13
Enjoy a fun night of family-friendly Bingo at Earth Fare on Thursday, November 13, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. You’ll pay just $1 per card, and all proceeds benefit the Hunger and Health Coalition.

In addition, Earth Fare has selected the agency as its Friend of the Month, the beneficiary of the store’s award-winning bag recycling program. The way it works is simple: each time a customer remembers to bring in a bag to reuse for groceries instead of taking another paper or plastic one, Earth Fare donates 10 cents for each bag to the local nonprofit Friend of the Month. Those dimes add up quickly.

Annual Food Drive Continues through January
Collection boxes for the Hunger and Health Coalition’s annual food drive are in locations throughout Boone and Watauga County, including most grocery stores, and volunteers will collect food from those boxes through January 2.

Current economic conditions have made this year’s food drive more important than ever. “The economic downturn has hit our area and the families that live here especially hard. This makes this year’s food drive incredibly critical,” Fortuna said.

Drop a few unperishables—or a few bags of unperishables—in one of the collection boxes and help feed families this winter.

23rd Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner November 27
The Hunger and Health Coalition is preparing to celebrate the 23rd Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving Day—Thursday, November 27—at the First Baptist Church on King Street. Dinner is served from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. According to event coordinator Kim Winebarger, this year’s dinner will be better than ever. “We are so fortunate to have the support from many restaurants in our community who contribute to the Thanksgiving Dinner year after year. We are all looking forward to the feast provided by Woodland’s, Makoto’s and the Speckled Trout Café.”

Volunteers contribute their time to prepare and serve the meal to those in need and also assist with delivering meals to those who cannot make it to the dinner. The Hunger and Health Coalition is asking for donations of desserts to be served at the meal.

According to Fortuna, the 2007 dinner served around 300 meals. “Our staff looks forward to this event every year; it has become an important part of my own family’s Thanksgiving tradition. When you see the families come in to eat and the excitement in the children’s faces, it is really heartwarming,” she said.

The Community Thanksgiving Dinner is open to anyone needing a place to eat on Thanksgiving Day. Anyone needing meals delivered and those who want to volunteer at the event are encouraged to call Winebarger at 828-262-1628.

Sharing Tree Program
The Hunger and Health Coalition is coordinating the annual Sharing Tree Program to identify families in need and to connect them with compassionate community members who can adopt them for the holidays.

According to Winebarger, “The Sharing Tree program is about connecting people in our community—creating a bridge between those in need and those who are willing and able to give.” Winebarger reported that the number of families requesting assistance has doubled over 2007 because of the impacts of the economy. “We already have 220 families participating and we still have a few days remaining for families to sign up,” she said.

Winebarger shared the story of one mother who came in to sign up last week. Mary, who works as a housekeeper at a local hotel, heard about the program from a co-worker. Mary’s hours have been reduced lately because business has slowed down. She recently separated from her husband, and her wages are the family’s only income. Mary has two young children, ages 2 and 5, and said she felt embarrassed and ashamed that she had to ask for help, but she had no other way to get winter clothes and coats for her kids. She wants to be able to give them something for Christmas. They have already been asking about Santa Claus because Christmas decorations are already up in so many stores. Mary said she hopes someone will help her this year and expressed her wish that next year will be better.

The Sharing Tree Program works specifically with families with children under 18 and those with senior citizens in the home. According to Fortuna, “Children and the elderly are two of the most vulnerable populations affected by poverty and hunger. One in three people served by the HHC is a child under age 18.”

Participating families list their gift requests for needed items, such as clothing, shoes, coats and other items. Adoptive families purchase selected items from the family’s requests and deliver gifts and food to the family. The Sharing Tree Program is a great project for community groups, churches and businesses. According to Winebarger, some local businesses call every year to adopt several families in lieu of gift giving at the office. “It is also a great way for families to celebrate Christmas—by giving to those in need instead of buying one more tie for dad or a coffee cup for mom. Each family member can sponsor a child or senior and make a wonderful difference in the life of that person,” she said.
For more information about how to adopt a family, contact Winebarger at 828-262-1628 or

Christmas in the Mountains Volume 2
The Christmas in the Mountains Volume 2 CD benefiting the Hunger and Health Coalition is bringing joy to our community: joy to the people who purchase the CD and love the music and joy to the friends and employees who will receive the CD as a gift.

But most important, the CD is bringing joy to the folks in our area who will not go hungry because so many people are giving the gift of food and medicine by purchasing the $10 CD available in more than 65 locations in Watauga and Avery counties.

Doc Watson donated a special song for this CD. As far as the producers know, it is the only Christmas song Doc has ever recorded.

Leslie Shavell, fundraising chair for the Hunger and Health Coalition, and Crae Morton, president of Grandfather Mountain, have coordinated this project. Shavell said, “We at the Hunger and Health Coalition are honored to have this peaceful work on our CD. The Kingston Trio’s song is also part of this delightful group of performances. Although not a local group, we consider them family. George Grove is the brother of the founder of the Hunger and Health Coalition, Joan Chater.”

The local performers who have donated their time and music for the CD have given much more than a song to our community by helping to make life a little bit easier for the needy in our area. On this CD, you will enjoy the music of Doc Watson, Amantha Mill, The Todd Wright Quartet, Laura Kaufman, The Lost Faculties, Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church Choir, ASU Jazz Vocal Ensemble, Jeff Little, Mary C. Greene, Diana and Sarvis Ridge, Joe Shannon, David Combs and Gary Prim, The Kingston Trio.