With help, local charity will give sick children a night to remember
When the doors of the Monroe Walmart close this year for Christmas Eve, 20 families will experience an evening of pure joy – roaming the store to find Christmas gifts for their loved ones.
As it has been in years past, this year’s shopping spree is courtesy of Monroe-based Hometown Heroes, a local charity that awards each family with a child suffering from a terminal or debilitating illness $500 to spend on Christmas gifts.
To finance endeavors like these, Hometown Heroes relies on the support of individuals, churches, businesses and civic organizations.
This year, Monroe’s Carillon Assisted Living Center is supporting Hometown Heroes by giving all proceeds from the sale of ornaments adorning the center’s Tree of Hope to the charity. Each customized ceramic ornament costs just $5, Carillon Marketing Director Wanda Carraway said, and the center will engrave the name of a loved one on the ornament.
The tree will stand in Carillon’s sunroom from Dec. 1 through 22, and anyone is welcome to stop by and purchase an ornament. Carillon asks those buying ornaments to leave them on the tree until Dec. 22.
Carraway has been involved with Hometown Heroes in one form or another since its inception. “Carillon is a community-minded organization that is relatively new to the area and wanted to play a part,” Carraway said. The timing of the Tree of Hope is perfect, as the assisted-living center observes its first anniversary in Monroe.
The Carillon chain also raises money nationally on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association. This year, the Monroe center will host a Festival of Wreaths from Monday, Dec. 6, through Dec. 16. From Monday through Dec. 10, the center invites members of the public to visit, see wreaths decorating resident doors and vote on their favorites for “best holiday spirit,” “best group representation” and “most creative.” The center will auction the wreaths Dec. 16 and donate the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association.
According to its website, hometownheroesonline.org, the charity got its start in 1998 when now-retired Police Officer Donnie Dixon recognized a need to help local children struggling with terminal illness or a tragic accident. He organized a golf tournament fundraiser called Big Kids Helping Little Kids, and now the organization has expanded to sponsor events helping families year-round.
With a roster of more than 500 volunteers, Hometown Heroes is able to support needy families who apply for assistance through the group’s website or those referred by Charlotte-based children’s hospitals. The group covers what it can to “help take some of the stress off of them,” Treasurer Dianne Mills said.
Aid comes in the form of grocery and gas money, home and hospital visits and payments for utilities and other bills.
The holidays are the busiest time of the year for Hometown Heroes, which means the charity needs extra support. In partnership, Hometown Heroes and Angels Among Us operate three Christmas tree lots: 702 W. Roosevelt Blvd., across from Monroe Motors; 2406 W. Roosevelt Blvd., in front of the Monroe Walmart; and 12000 Mallard Creek Road, Charlotte.
Hometown Heroes also hopes to hold two other events hosted by The Mighty 1190 WIXE-AM radio: the annual Sugar Plum Cookoff, where volunteers can drop off baked goods for auctioning at Hendrick Chevrolet Cadillac on Dec. 22 and 23, and Magic Music Monday on Dec. 22, where listeners can pledge $5 to Hometown Heroes to hear a Christmas song of their choice.
“Every dollar counts, and we never turn down any donation,” Mills said. “We have been very blessed because people have become invested in our stories. When you give, you get back, especially where children are concerned.”