Christmas Happiness Fund will start accepting donations to help children, families this week
By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Since 1952, the Rowan County community has thought of others during the holiday season and made it possible for local families to buy presents for their children through the annual Christmas Happiness Fund.
The fund began when then-Salisbury Post Editor Spencer Murphy asked readers to help Rowan County children receive something for Christmas. Murphy spoke with Lucille Donnelly, head of the county’s welfare department, who said many families didn’t have enough money to buy their children gifts.
Murphy asked readers for help in an editorial. In that first year, the community helped raise $1,811.41. The county population has continued to climb as many more families find it difficult to make ends meet and this year has been no exception. In the nearly 70 years since Murphy’s first challenge, the community hasn’t failed to accept the call.
The process is simple: individuals donate monetary gifts to the Christmas Happiness Fund, which is collected by the Salisbury Post. Usually, donations are made in honor of someone. All money collected is then given to the Rowan County Salvation Army, which issues gift cards to families to buy presents. Recipients register in advance through the Christmas Bureau, which hosts an application drive where families apply for multiple programs, including Christmas Happiness and the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.
The application process, which went online this year because of COVID-19 restrictions, has already concluded.
These holiday assistance programs are long-standing traditions for many in the community who dig deep into their wallets and contribute. Last year, the community raised $42,609.65 that helped 940 children.
“For many in our community, participating in the Christmas Happiness and Salvation Army Angel Tree have been traditions for generations,” said Maj. Karl Dahlin, who leads the local Salvation Army with his wife, Janice. “I know that it remains because of the notion that despite all our differences as individuals, taking care of others is an important character trait we want to pass on to the next generation.”
Dahlin and many other volunteers process applications and distribute the funds that go to local families.
“So, remember to share with your children the importance of this tradition and remember others in need by giving to Christmas Happiness and Red kettles this season,” Dahlin said.
The money raised through the Red Kettle campaign funds programs that help local families.
Dahlin recalled the experience of one mom who was left to raise two young boys after the father of the children was incarcerated. The “mom” was actually a relative who “stepped up to take them in and give them a home even though she herself didn’t have much to share,” he said.
“She knew in her heart that she needed to help these kids and she took them in,” Dahlin said. “She learned about the Christmas Happiness program and called to see if these two boys could be remembered at Christmas even though they were new to her household and this would be their first Christmas together as a family.”
Thanks to the donations from the public to support Christmas Happiness, Dahlin said, they were able to help the family.
“As Christmas draws close she will receive help for these two boys who deserve have some joy brought into their lives,” he said.
Residents will begin seeing donation forms appear in the paper on Tuesday. In order for the Salvation Army to distribute funds to families, all donations have to be submitted no later than Dec. 21. Any contributions given after the holidays are reserved to begin the fund for the following year.