2017 reasons to be thankful

Thanksgiving is Thursday, the time of year we set aside to be thankful for pilgrims, turkey and green bean casserole – along with family, friends and other people we actually enjoy spending time with.
    While there are always problems that need to be solved, we have much to celebrate in Cherokee County this and every year. So let’s take a little break from our worries and focus on how our small community continually comes together big for those in need.
    Here’s just one recent example. Donnie Simonds is a local mechanic, musician and tattoo artist, not necessarily the first person some folks would think of when it comes to charitable work. But when Simonds heard about how some children were going to school without proper coats, shoes and even underwear, he got with his friends at Double Tap Tattoo Studio and Rideable Customs to help do something about it.
    Focusing on five programs – Cherokee County Schools Coat Drive, Shoe Fund, Supplemental Food for Students, Toys for Toys and Children’s Socks & Underwear – Simonds enlisted the support of several other businesses to raise more than $1,000. While much more is needed, that amount will ensure that some kids have a much merrier Christmas than they otherwise would have this year.
    “The leaders of some programs had to dig into their own pockets last year to pay for some things,” said Simonds, who was moved by both the generosity and need. “People need to do some soul searching and look to help those in our community first.”
    Those leaders include Jim Miller State Farm Insurance; Steven Aft State Farm Insurance; Manna – Andrews, Friendship and Ranger Baptist churches; John Evans and the Marine Corps League, Cherokee Detachment 1011; and REACH (Alpha Delta Kappa). Businesses that helped Simonds’ cause include Back Alley Arms, Cell Plus, Cherokee Guns, Exum’s Auto Salvage, Jacky Jones Superstore, Jim Twiggs Auto, Lifetime Kia, Mauney’s Auto and Smoky Mountain Shooter’s Supply. You can donate to the above programs at any of those businesses as well as at the Cherokee Scout office in downtown Murphy.
    Just how bad is the need here? Schools Superintendent Jeana Conley said 82 percent of her 3,237 students quality for free or reduced lunch, meaning they live below the federal poverty level, and more than 500 supplemental food bags will be sent home with students in December. And County Commissioner Cal Stiles told the Murphy Rotary Club on Monday that the Department of Social Services hands out more than $460,000 a month in food cards.
    We’re thankful that we live in an area of the world with more natural beauty than most. We’re thankful that we get to experience wildlife from the decks of our homes. We’re thankful that most folks will still greet you with a wave and a smile.
    However, on this Thanksgiving we’re especially grateful for the good people who give above and beyond themselves to help make sure their neighbors also have a reason to be thankful. More than anything else, that makes Cherokee County a place well worth celebrating in 2017 and beyond.