As the holiday season approaches, teachers, students, and staff at Blue Ridge Community Action are gearing up for the holidays. Every department at our agency is in full swing this time of year. The Community Services Department processes applications for programs for all of the agency's respective departments, and this is the time of year when individuals and families tend to request more services. Some reasons for this can of course be extra expenses families tend to have with the holidays and children, but there can be other reasons for extra expenses, such as higher utility bills and home repairs due to cold winter months. "Since October 1st, we have received over 120 Emergency Assistance applications", shared Community Services Director Aryn Smith. "Emergency Assistance serves Burke, Caldwell, and Rutherford families." The needs of the community are what prompt our departments to spring into action and assist in whatever ways possible.
All three of Blue Ridge Community Action's Child Care centers celebrated the fall season with various fun seasonal activities, including Fall Festivals at Quaker Meadows Generations and Circle of Friends. Staff and parents were able to help children enjoy fire trucks, feeding goats, cornhole, fall photos, bounce houses, a corn sensory activity, wagon rides, playing in leaves, fall-themed snacks, and more. Parents were invited to enjoy time with their children on Fall Festival day, and several attended each center. Staff and teachers at all three Blue Ridge Community Action child care centers also come together to make sure each and every child receives a special item for the holiday season. Teachers create sponsor cards for each student in their room, asking for clothing sizes and ideas for a special item for the child. Every child receives at least one special item, however, those in the most need may receive winter clothing or other necessities. BRCA is able to provide extra necessities to those children in need thanks to individual contributions, as well as donations from local businesses and organizations.
Prior to Thanksgiving, the Senior Services Department wanted to make sure as many people in the community were fed over the long holiday weekend. The Saturday before Thanksgiving, our agency was able to partner with The Morganton/Burke Fraternal Order of Police to provide 50 local families with Thanksgiving dinners. The Home Delivered Meals Program in Caldwell County was also able to provide frozen meals to seniors so that they would be fed over the long holiday weekend as well. The Home Delivered Meals program is still actively looking for volunteers to assist in delivering meals to Caldwell County seniors. Some of the most vulnerable seniors in our area benefit from this program, a majority of which are not able to leave their homes due to medical constraints. If you are interested in volunteering to help Caldwell County seniors, please contact our Morganton office at 828-438-6255 and ask about being a volunteer for the Home Delivered Meals program. Volunteer participants are reimbursed for mileage.
On December 2nd, Western Piedmont Community College held its annual ABC for Kids Event (hat and Coat Party). This event, held to assist children most in need in Burke County, provides winter clothing, new shoes, and books as special gifts to those children. Kids are able to participate in arts and crafts, have a snack, and meet Santa Claus. Quaker Meadows Generations and Circle of Friends participated in this year's festivities. Holidays can bring many happy memories and feelings of nostalgia for some senior clients as well. The Blue Ridge Community Action Adult Day Center in Morganton has been preparing for the holidays with seasonal activities geared toward social interaction. A popular activity last week was decorating the Christmas Tree located inside the main room of the center. Activity Coordinator Jessie S. assisted clients with selecting ornaments and hanging them on the tree, as well as facilitating discussions with clients about the holidays and the things they enjoy most about the time of year.
The Foster Grandparent Program met for its monthly training session at the Morganton Community House on December 6th, and everyone was excited to share in the holiday spirit. Program volunteers serve at many different area child care centers, public schools, as well as J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center. These important community members act as mentors to area youth, and the program allows these seniors to learn new skills, socialize with peers, and stay both mentally and physically active. The majority of this December training was centered around alleviating stress and learning about energy conservation in the home from our agency's Weatherization department.
The cumulative efforts brought forth by every department at Blue Ridge Community Action during this time of year help the overall health and wellness of the communities we serve. Part of our organization's mission is to provide programs and services that reduce the suffering caused by poverty. While many believe the suffering caused by poverty is just from a lack of household funds, realistically it is much more. The "context of stress" created by a lack of socioeconomic mobility affects those in poverty, specifically with stressors related to housing insecurity, food insecurity, lack of adequate preventative medical care, residential mobility, family violence, and more. During stressful times of the year, such as the holiday season, BRCA strives to alleviate these stressors for individuals and families. Our agency continues these efforts yearly thanks to the immense amount of help, support, and funding from our grantors and individual contributors.
Sources: 1. American Psychiological Association, https://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2012/07/stress-mechanism