• Laurel Contributor

People Helping People

by Mary Jane McCall

People Helping People, that’s the mission of the Highlands Emergency Council, a non-profit founded in 1985 to serve low income people in the Highlands area.

The dedication and hard work of their volunteers, together with the support of churches, businesses, and individuals within the community, enables them to enrich the lives of many throughout the year, but they really kick into overdrive during the holiday season.

In addition to their ongoing food assistance program in which they distribute weekly food boxes to qualifying individuals and families, in November they ensure that each such family additionally receives a Thanksgiving box. These boxes, sponsored by an individual donor, include everything a family needs to prepare meals for the entire day, including a hearty breakfast and a traditional Thanksgiving feast. Last year they distributed 50 such boxes.

They also, in conjunction with Highlands First Presbyterian Church, Community Bible Church and August Produce, provide 50 Christmas meal boxes which also include food for all three meals. 50 families received Christmas boxes last year.

During the fall season they provide fuel assistance to families who meet the criteria, and sign up during one of their two application periods. Applicants must apply in person, and proof of income is required in order to ensure that they qualify for low income assistance. Upon approval HEC provides applicants with 100 gallons of their needed fuel twice during the season. Last year they were able to provide assistance to 45 families.

Their Angel Program during the Christmas season, is in its 19th year, and provides gifts for children and families who might not otherwise have the resources available to purchase presents. In previous years they have successfully put Giving Trees in local banks. This year many local banks have closed their offices, so First Citizens will be the place to go, and HEC appreciates the willingness of First Citizens and their employees to help make this collection a success. Last year they were able to provide gifts to 40 families and 56 children.

Those wishing to give should stop by and choose a numbered card that lists the sizes of the recipients. Then they purchase their gift items and return them unwrapped with the original card to the bank for HEC to pick up. Several area businesses typically help fill in any gaps to ensure that each person receives something, and HEC purchases any remaining needed items with donations. HEC stresses that clothes items are the necessities that are items that are most needed. Also available are Family Sponsorships, which HEC is encouraging this year. Call or visit their office for more information.

If you can’t stop by and pick up a card please consider giving a monetary gift to HEC which you can designate for this program, or to go toward their general fund. Either way you’re helping make someone’s holidays a lot more merry and bright.

Highlands Emergency council is located at 71 Poplar Street and is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 A.M. until 2:00 P.M. Their phone number is (828) 526-4357. In addition to monetary donations they also accept donations of household items, linens, furniture and appliances that are in working order.

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