In a year marked by economic and social disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Carteret County defied the national trend of hunkering down to await a happier season and instead stepped out with an amazing display of generosity.

News-Times reporter Cheryl Burke was busy the week before Christmas covering numerous organizations dedicated to aiding families and individuals throughout the county to assure the Christmas season would be brighter for those suffering the stresses caused by a declining economy and social isolation.

“Donning masks as a COVID-19 safety precaution, members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church were rushing Friday to load vehicles with wrapped gifts and bicycles for delivery….” At another venue Ms. Burke reported, “A similar scene was playing out at First Methodist Church in Morehead City, where volunteers were sorting gifts and food that filled the church’s large fellowship hall.”

The efforts to provide Christmas cheer to less fortunate individuals and families were also supported by organizations and groups other than churches. The county’s public school system got into the act with “Feeding Kids Events,” providing nearly 300 families with food assistance, a group of Christmas carolers in Pine Knoll Shores collected donations for 34 families and individuals, and Camp Happy Kids, an organization dedicated to sending youngsters to summer camp, distributed toys to 300 Carteret County children. These are just a few of the organizations performing their own Christmas miracles.

Businesses such as retailers, realtors and restaurants stepped in to provide gift certificates, all to show that the Christmas spirit would not be dampened by the pandemic and the economic challenges it has created.

Bob Cousens, co-chairman of Project Christmas Cheer, noted that “once again residents, churches and businesses came through to adopt 562 children and 123 senior citizens who applied for help.”

Even these organizations needed help, which arrived with the support of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots program, providing supplies to various organizations such as the county’s Salvation Army and various church groups. As is always the case, the determining factor for support fell to the residents and businesses in the county.

There is no question that organized programs are more effective but even these organizations - churches, food banks, Hope Mission, Domestic Violence, Family Promise and the Salvation Army, to name a few, are reliant on the generosity of the individuals in the community.

That generosity and support was most apparent as the Carteret County Salvation Army conducted its own fundraising event just two days prior to Christmas. The county’s Army unit had experienced significant decline in its fundraising activities and was looking at an approximately $150,000 shortfall that was going to impact the Army’s services such as rent, utilities and emergency services for the coming year. “We are down $110,000 in overall giving locally and down about $40,000 for the Red Kettle campaign,” Major Aaron Goldfarb, the Army’s local commander, told the News-Times.

In an effort to raise $25,000 the local Salvation Army unit conducted a last minute event with Major Goldfarb’s wife, Captain Jamie Goldfarb, hoisted on a scissor lift with the intention that she would not be returned to ground level until the funding goal was met.

The response to the event, $76,115, was overwhelming and resulted in Captain Goldfarb’s return to ground level hours in advance of what was expected. “We didn’t expect this kind of response…. This is a testimony to how much Carteret County loves their community and helps their neighbors,” the major stated.

We echo Major Goldfarb’s comments with the hope that the county’s residents, visitors and businesses continue to support these many worthwhile organizations that work so successfully throughout the year. As the Salvation Army continues to point out - need knows no season. And the needs our community will face in the coming months will not disappear but become even more acute as we plod through the pandemic.

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