Patrick’s mother had an extremely bad addiction to drugs. She was often thrown into the Carter County Jail for months at a time. Even when he was a very small child, Patrick learned how to fend for himself when his mother was incarcerated.
He knew he could get food from the dumpsters outside the fast food restaurants. He learned to hunt and prepare small mammals and snakes. He found shelter in old cars in a junkyard and in a conveniently located cave.
Still, he has memories of some very sad and lonely Christmases. His worst was when both his mother and his uncle were both in jail on a very cold Christmas. He was living all by himself in an unheated shack, with no electricity or running water.
Coming from such a background, the first time he saw a Johnson City Press Christmas Box was a very memorable moment that Patrick vividly recalls today.
“My grandmother got a Christmas Box. It was so big and had so much food,” Patrick remembers. “I knew that box must have cost a lot of money and I could not understand why someone would just give it to us.”
He didn’t think about it too long. He was very hungry and he could smell the delicious aroma coming from the package of stuffing mix. Patrick was unfamiliar with stuffing, but he tore open the bag and ate the stuffing mix raw. Still hungry, Patrick opened a box of uncooked macaroni and cheese. He ate the raw macaroni, crunching loudly but happily.
For a boy who had lived such a deprived childhood, it was a hint that there were people in the world who did care about him and wanted to help him.
Patrick had always been distrustful of charity when he was young.
“I knew that food and things cost money, and I didn’t have any. When someone offered me something, I always wondered what they wanted from me.”
Fortunately, Patrick was able to spend time with his grandmother and she successfully taught the wild little boy about God and about Christianity. Her teaching greatly influenced him, and it began to change his life.
He also found other people who won his trust. One of the most important was an employee at the elementary school he attended. She gave him food and other things he desperately needed and asked for nothing in return. She showed him he was worthy of love.
Today, Patrick has talents and skills that are in great demand. He knows he can earn a lot more money by leaving Carter County and going where those high-paying jobs are. Patrick will probably do that at some point, but for now, he feels he has an obligation to the kind people of Carter County who cared for him and helped him overcome his early disadvantages. He is dedicating this part of his life to serving the community as a repayment and a thank you.
To those who gave to the Johnson City Press Christmas Box in years gone by, thanks for helping one very neglected, very distrustful little boy and showing him that there are people who care that everyone has a good Christmas.
All total, 2,026 children and 1,088 households in Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties are registered for help from the Angel Tree and Christmas Box this year. In addition to those, several hundred area seniors in low-income senior housing developments in the three counties will also receive food assistance for the holiday from the Christmas Box.
For each household of three to seven people, the Christmas Box provides a large box of more than 40 canned and boxed food items, fresh potatoes and onions, and a festive meat — or all the makings of a holiday meal plus several additional meals for a family. For families of eight or more people, the Christmas Box provides two food boxes.
For seniors who live alone and small households of one or two people, the box provides a $35 grocery shopping gift certificate. And with that, the Christmas Box also provides 600 hams for families in Johnson and Unicoi counties who are served by other nonprofit holiday food programs.
For those who wish to help provide food for Christmas food for each of those households, the Christmas Box is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and contributions are tax deductible. And because the Johnson City Press covers all the administrative costs of the project, 100 percent of all donations are used to purchase food.
Contributions to the Johnson City Press Christmas Box may be made online at jcpchristmasbox.com or by mail to P.O. Box 1387, Johnson City, TN 37605.
More information about the Christmas Box can be found at the website and on the Johnson City Press Christmas Box page on Facebook, or may be obtained by calling Johnson City Press Operations Manager Ron Tipton at 929-3111, ext. 3302.