KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Families across Appalachia may face unique challenges making ends meet. Children may go hungry, families may struggle to find clothes and they may struggle to put gifts under the tree over the holidays.
To help them, Mission of Hope organized the Blue Barrel campaign, starting Nov. 1. During the campaign, the organization places large blue barrels at several places across the area. People can fill these barrels with toys, clothes and nonperishable necessities to help families in their community.
This year, organizers said that the barrels will be at certain Food City locations. They said that the process of preparing, distributing and collecting items from the Blue Barrels requires several hours from volunteers. Many of them may not have felt comfortable spending so much time close to other people because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a release.
While there may be fewer blue barrels out, Mission of Hope will also host a Cyber Barrel Christmas Drive starting Nov. 1. This campaign lets people choose items for purchase from online registries, shipping them directly to the Mission Hope warehouse. There, they are packed for delivery.
The campaign operates through 29 elementary schools in rural Appalachia. Through those schools, the nonprofit helps make Christmas a brighter time for around 12,000 children and families.
"The men and women of Appalachia are a proud people with a long heritage of self-reliance and independence," organizers said. "Unfortunately, many families in Appalachia have lost hope for a successful future because they only see the results of poverty, broken families, loss of jobs and depleted coal-mining economies."
Information about specific locations where the barrels will be placed was not immediately available. Links to the cyber barrel registries can be found online. People can also make a financial donation online.
In 2020, the Blue Barrel Drive was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they continued holding a cyber donation drive.
"There are many places around the world that can use your help, but this is where you have an opportunity to make a difference in your own backyard — Appalachia," officials said in a release.