East TN charities hopeful for holiday giving

8:10 PM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
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Some retail stores near and far are reporting record sales over the Thanksgiving weekend between "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday". Those are signs that a strong holiday spending season is underway. On the heels of this comes "Giving Tuesday." It's the first dedicated day of a national campaign to remember those in need amidst the frenzy to spend. For some local charitable organizations, it's a nice reminder of the reason for the season.

Perhaps by coincidence, the Red Cross released study results on Monday that indicate people plan to give this holiday season even though there have been increased donations throughout all of 2012.

"Giving Tuesday" was born at the 92nd street "Y" in New York City and it spread across the country this year.

Bud Brickeen spent his "Giving Tuesday" giving back at Mission of Hope (MOH) in Knoxville. He had major heart surgery two months ago, and almost lost his life.

"Working down here is all about giving," said Brickeen.

Brickeen began sharing his volunteer spirit with MOH back in 2004. He's there nearly every day since he's the warehouse coordinator.  At Christmastime, he works with a team to make sure non-perishable food and hygiene items, clothing, and toys get distributed 17,500 families in rural Appalachia in time for Christmas.

Much of those items are collected through December 3, 2012 at blue barrels placed around Knox County. The effort now serves people at 27 schools in poverty-stricken countries in Southeastern Kentucky and East Tennessee.

"This Christmas effort is one of our biggest ever," said MOH Executive Director Emmette Thompson.

While need is high, Thompson also said the public is responding with what they can.

"We've had some small periods of decline and maybe strain on our dear Mission of Hope friends giving situations. We feel like were seeing folks that are trying to give that maybe couldn't give before. We're still under some anxiety," said Thompson.

Anxiety that there won't be enough to go around, especially during the holidays, is a common feeling among non-profits. This has been especially true during the recession.

"The giving kind of reflects the way the economy has been. It's been a few tough hears but everything seems to be on an upswing right now and we are hopefully optimistic," said Stan Gibert of the American Red Cross in Knoxville.

A Red Cross survey released this week indicates charitable organizations can expect to see fewer donations in smaller amounts this year compared to last. But, most people who donated to hurricane sandy relief or to a political campaign said they still plan to donate for the holidays.

The Salvation Army in Knoxville reports it is hopeful that the public will step up throughout the giving season, and not just on "Giving Tuesday" even though it is seeing a slow start to its Red Kettle Campaign.  Spokesperson Rob Link told 10News that's due, in part, because they were not allowed to start collecting at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club until Black Friday.  In years past, the kettles were in place at those locations on November 15, the same day collections start at other locations. 

So far, in the first five days of the campaign, the Salvation Army has collected $60,000 in Knoxville, Oak Ridge, and Maryville.  Those collections will stop mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve.

MOH is also seeing a steady stream of donations so far this season, that Thompson has faith will pick up.

"We've seen a very good start to what we do at Christmas, but I don't want to give the impression that we're there because we're not," said Thompson.

With work to be done, Brickeen gives his time, and his heart to give others a hand up during the holidays.

"Giving is something that stays with you," said Brickeen.

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