Years ago, as I stood in the morning cold at Ross’s Landing to take part in my very first “Share Your Christmas” effort with the WRCB news team, Bill Markham was the anchor of the 6 o’clock news and he darn nearly ruined my day. He and I were talking about sports and girls and cold toes when suddenly he said, “Wanna’ know a secret?”
With Bill you wanted to know everything that swirled in his daffy brain so as I leaned in to hear his whisper, Markham’s face grew as soft as his voice. “Today you are going to see that poor people give more than rich people do.” I asked how could that be and Bill said only, “You’ll see …”
Just before that morning’s first light all the cars started coming. Bill, Cindy Sexton, Paul Barys, David Carroll , Jed Mescon, Tamara Lister and a host of others thanked the drivers while UTC fraternity guys, volunteers wearing Christmas togs, and Sunday School classes helped carry everything for one can of sliced peaches to literally cases of canned goods to trucks for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.
By 11 o’clock or so … I remember it was still before lunch … I could no longer look at Markham. He was right and I was just overcome by the puzzling phenomenon. I mean there were battered cars in line, bearing sacks of rice and corn meal and canned goods that would last long after the holidays.
When a homeless guy wandered up and handed Cindy Sexton $10.31, I had to race inside the RV, my allergies suddenly making my eyes water something fierce.
The reason poor people give the most when times are flush is because they can’t forget the feeling that was once the wolf back when things were thin. Please understand, a lot of great people support the Food Bank with donations but when you see what comes out of a run-down pickup truck, it's pretty easy to recognize one man’s sacrifice is every bit as earnest as any other.
By the next “Share Your Christmas” I was ready. The first thing I did was tell my buddy Bill to keep his secrets to himself; I am such a sap when I see giving hearts up close. Trust me, literally thousands of people take part in the annual WRCB extravaganza. It is so wonderful around noon when the line of cars swell and you realize people are taking their lunch break to bring food to the event. And when a little girl on crutches with spina bifida wanted to meet the glorious Cindy Sexton and personally give the TV celebrity the small sack of food that has been tied to her right crutch – oh, those darn allergies.
Please consider this as your invitation to take part in “Share Your Christmas” this Friday but note that it has been moved away from the waterfront to the First Tennessee Pavilion next to Finley Stadium. There is an easy drive-thru and a bunch of police volunteer each year to make sure you can move through quickly. The day begins at 4:30 a.m. for those who want to give their groceries on their way to work or school and continues until 6 p.m.
Further, there are bins at Bi-Lo and Publix where non-perishable food and/or monetary donations can be made and there will be satellite teams at two other locations for convenience; LifeCare’s Campbell campus in Cleveland and First Baptist Church in Dalton.
Sadly, recent cuts to the Food Stamp program have created a greater strain on the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, which already helps 20,000 people in our community every week. Every year a number of donations in both cash and checks are accepted by Chattanooga Area Food Bank officials at the WRCB event and receipts are provided. If everyone will simply do their part to make “Share Your Christmas” a success this year, we’ll have a record amount for those less fortunate this winner.
But, remember this, give like you are poor, that you remember the wolf and what it was like once things brightened up.
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THE 24TH ANNUAL Merv’s Christmas Party, the traditional gathering founded by Signal Mountain’s Jim Bach and Richard Wagner, will be held at the popular hamburger haven on Thursday, Dec. 12, from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. The fun-filled event features a huge money bowl where donations to the Community Kitchen are collected (all checks are tax-deductible) and the fun crowd makes this truly a holiday classic.
To get to Merv’s, take the Signal Mountain exit off I-24 and follow Signal Mountain Boulevard past the Walmart until, at the foot of the mountain, you’ll come to a stop light that says Mountain Creek Road. Take a right, go a couple of blocks and you can’t miss it. Merv’s will be on the left.
And if you’d rather go for lunch or on a different night, the restaurant will accept early donations for the Community Kitchen.