The methods may be different. The path we take to get there will certainly be changed.

But, in the end, the destination remains the same: Smiling faces Christmas morning.

The Citizen Tribune Holiday Hope Fund is kicking off for the 2020 holiday season and things will look very different. For instance, the traditional launch of the campaign, the Community Thanksgiving Service, has been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Other changes include the number of Angel Trees, how the Angel Tree at College Square Mall is manned and the packing and distribution.

What has not changed, however, is the mission.

“For nearly 40 years, the Citizen Tribune Holiday Hope Fund has led an organized effort to provide a traditional Christmas meal for seniors and families in need as well as three age appropriate toys for children 12 and under,” said Citizen Tribune editor/publisher R. Michael Fishman. “This is achieved in a way that allows parents to make the decisions on how the toys are received. They can be wrapped and placed under the tree from mom and dad, or they can be ready on Christmas morning, preserving the magic of Christmas and Santa Claus for the youngsters who believe.”

The trappings may be different this year but the Hope Fund will operate in much the same way as it has in the past. Donations will be accepted a variety of ways, including online, and those who give will be listed in the Citizen Tribune as we track the race toward the $90,000 goal.

“It’s been a challenge, in recent years, to reach that goal,” Fishman said. “There have been years we’ve received a miracle donation and years in which we’ve come up short. But let me assure you, every dollar given goes towards its intended purpose and we appreciate every single donation.”

In providing the makings of a holiday meal, one that can be stretched several days depending on the size of the family, the Hope Fund tells seniors who may not have families in the area that they are important and not forgotten at Christmas. For families struggling to make ends meet, the Hope Fund alleviates a handful of worries, it makes the season just a little bit easier for parents.

“As a father, I think about the parents in our area for whom providing nice toys at Christmas is a financial burden,” Fishman said. “Is this the Christmas morning their children wake up with nothing under the tree? Is this the Christmas the magic of Santa dies because Christmas morning arrived without presents? The spirit of the season is about giving. There is nothing more precious we can give to parents than less stress and more joy. There is nothing more sacred than preserving a child’s sense of wonder another year. For $90,000 we can give a merry Christmas to our friends, our neighbors, the members of this community who are struggling financially. What can be more in the spirit of Christmas than that?”

In a letter to fellow pastors announcing the cancellation of the Community Thanksgiving Service the Rev. Dean Haun, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, urged area congregations to support the effort to assist 1,500 families in the region.

“Without our efforts, this will be a very dismal Christmas for those in need in the Lakeway Area,” Haun wrote. “I hope you will join med in supporting this effort. … Together we can make a huge difference in the lives of our friends throughout Hamblen County.”

You can donate to the Citizen Tribune Holiday Hope Fund via mail at Morristown Hamblen Central Services. P.O. Box 1622, Morristown, Tenn. 37816.

You can also call 423-586-9431 or visit the website and donate online.

“So many things have changed or been altered this year,” Fishman said. “One thing that hasn’t changed is the heart of this community. For nearly 40 years, you’ve come together to provide a merry Christmas to those in need. I believe that we will, once again, rise to the occasion this year.”