Key Club helps bring holiday cheer to less fortunate

Many families here in Knoxville are faced with difficult financial situations, some so trying that they can’t afford food or toys for their children for the holidays. Luckily, charities like The Jacob Building and school organizations like Key Club exist to help these families in need. Each year, The Jacob Building, whose home is in Chilhowee Park, organizes The Empty Stocking Fund in order to provide struggling families with food and toys for their children. This year will be the 100 th year of operation for The Empty Stocking Fund, and Bearden Key Club has been a key contributor to the cause for the past 25. The Jacob Building begins the work by accepting food and toy donations to put into baskets to send to each family for Christmas. After all donations are collected, the Knoxville community as a whole works to organize the baskets. This portion of the process is where Key Club helps out. “The whole process is organized into six shifts,” BHS senior Meghan Ward said. “We actually have about 57 students working one of those.” The students representing Key Club help to fill 3,600 baskets to send to 3,600 different families. Within a time span of six hours, the baskets are filled with a Christmas turkey, a few toys, a book, and food to sustain the family for a period of time beyond just the holidays. In order to fill such an impressive number of baskets in such a short amount of time, students and other volunteers from throughout the community organize themselves into an assembly line. On the assembly line, turkeys and food are placed in each basket, along with age and gender appropriate toys specified to fit each family. Filling the baskets isn’t exactly an easy task, but the volunteers do whatever is necessary to make it happen. “We work no matter what the weather, rain or shine,” BHS Key Club sponsor Mr. Ernie Roberts said. Although the work is tedious, the time is softened with a light atmosphere filled with holiday tunes. After the baskets are packed to the brim, two days are spent distributing them. “Key Club helps to load the baskets onto trucks that take the baskets to other smaller organizations that distribute the baskets to give out to the people,” BHS senior Taylor Beckett said. The smaller organizations give baskets to people who are outside Knox County and people who cannot provide their own transportation. People who can provide their own transportation go to The Jacob building to pick up their baskets. After all is said and done, The Empty Stocking Fund helps spread cheer to those who might not necessarily have a happy holiday season without the help of Key Club and other volunteers. Mackenzie Lee is a staff writer for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.