The Town of Canton is holding a silent auction to benefit a local food bank for school children, along with seasonal cheer served during the inaugural Canton Christmas Kickoff event Dec. 2 at the Colonial Theater, said Town Clerk Lisa Stinnett.

Between 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2, Santa and Mrs. Claus will hear children’s Christmas wishes, Legacy Dance Center will perform routines, a photo booth will be set up and free festive refreshments will be served, Stinnett said.

A silent auction will offer gift baskets valued between $25 and several hundred dollars, with proceeds raised during the auction going towards Backpacks of Love, a program of the Canton Missional Network, said backpacks coordinator Barbara Monaghan.

“We were broken into in August, and $4,000 worth of food was stolen, so we are putting together gift baskets to auction,” Monaghan said. “The town asked us to participate so we could recoup some money, so we could buy more food.”

Monaghan was busy in the Backpacks of Love headquarters at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church the morning of Friday, Nov. 22, preparing the raffle baskets alongside fellow volunteers from the interfaith Canton Missional Network.

“People have generously donated stuff for gift baskets,” Monaghan said.

For the past seven years, Backpacks of Love has fed an average of 65 Haywood County Schools students per week during the school year, providing backpacks full of food, water and sanitary supplies for kids to use during the weekend, then return to be refilled. Fifty of those 65 kids are from Meadowbrook Elementary School, Monaghan said.

“The need is great, and it’s growing,” Monaghan said. “It’s an ongoing problem in this county, and if a child is hungry, they cannot learn.”

Contact St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Canton to make a donation or volunteer with Backpacks of Love, Monaghan said.

Smokey Mountain Santa jumped onboard to show support for Backpacks of Love, said Deborah Reed, also known as Mrs. Claus.

“When we saw and heard what happened in August, it was just so near and dear, because I used to work as a teacher assistant in Haywood Schools at Riverbend for eight years, so I know firsthand the need,” Reed said. “It just laid on our heart to try to do something to help them this year. Since we are from Canton, this is our hometown and this had happened to them, it just seemed like a good fit for us.”

Stinnett said this year’s Canton Christmas Kickoff will hopefully begin a tradition in the town.

“Events like this allow us to give back to our community and help programs like Backpacks of Love, which assists the youth in our community all year long,” Stinnett said. “We invite everyone to attend and enjoy the first annual Kickoff to Christmas with us.”

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