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In our own backyard, there are thousands of people hungry and cold tonight. Thankfully, the Mission of Hope works all year to help ease the burden for our neighbors in rural Appalachia, and Friday, you can help make Christmas bright for thousands of children in that region.

The 18th annual Mission of Hope Blue Barrel Christmas campaign kicks off.

It's a sight that never gets old-- a Mission of Hope Christmas delivery to children in rural Appalachia. Our hope is this year will be the best Christmas the children have had yet, but the Mission of Hope doesn't just work during the holiday season-- they provide hope year-round to our needy neighbors in rural Appalachia.

"We do ministry 52 weeks out of the year working with some of the most wonderful people you could ever meet. They're the people that know the area and help the poor there," said Emmette Thompson, executive director of Mission of Hope.

These days hope is in high demand.

"We have kids who come in and you realize why they can't focus. I've had kids that don't sleep at night because they are cold," described Forge Ridge teacher Melissa Dishner.

Dishner's school in Claiborne Couny is one of the many schools Mission of Hope serves.

"At the beginning of the year they will bring school supplies and backpacks, and some of the kids will carry those around until they're torn at the seams," she explained.

"It's hard to put into words what it means to the children and to their families," said Forge Ridge Principal Marty Cosby. "Actually we have some staff and faculty that benefit from that because they are working and doing everything they can."

Mission of Hope is also a lifeline for non-profits who are on the front lines desperately trying to keep up with the growing number of people who need help.

Lisa Perry and LaGonda Snow run the Manna House in Claiborne County. With help from the Mission of Hope, they're able to supply food, clothes and hygiene items year-round.

"The number of applicants has pretty much doubled," said Perry.

"We just have so many souls who've lost their jobs. Their families are on drugs and they just have nowhere to go," added Snow. "We couldn't do it without them. We could not do it without Mission of Hope."

That brings us back to Christmas, because without generous donations and the Mission of Hope, many children wouldn't have a Christmas at all. As the Mission of Hope drive kicks off, we hope you'll remember the children who don't have a say in their situation but would love to have a great Christmas.

The Mission of Hope Christmas Barrel Drive runs from November 22nd through December 9th. Big blue barrels are set up at participating Food City, Chick-Fil-A, Kmart, Home Federal, Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union, Sears and CVS locations in East Tennessee. The Mission of Hope could use donations of non-perishable food items, as well as new and unopened clothing items, toys and hygiene items.

For more information, please visit www.missionofhope.org/christmas

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