“It’s actually the soul of why we’re here,” he said. “If a business isn’t giving something back to the community it serves, why be in business?”
Lending their musical talents to the cause, the Darren Nicholson Band will be filling the taproom with the finest bluegrass the mountains have to offer.
“This is a positive, fun incentive to get people out to support a cause,” said Nicholson, mandolinist for beloved group Balsam Range. “I’ve seen a big change with the growth of breweries in Western North Carolina. They’re really trying to show the positive sides of their business and their place in the community.”
Thinking about his own 11-year-old son, the musician wants other children to have the same chance to find their own Christmas miracle wrapped under the tree.
“Christmas is a huge deal for us,” he said. “Naturally, I want to do my part to make sure other kids have a good holiday experience. This event will be a lot of fun and we hope to make life better for our neighbors.”
Frog Level isn’t the only WNC brewery taking this initiative. Also in Waynesville, Tipping Point Brewing will be holding a “Toys for Tots” charity event on Dec. 20, coupled with their anniversary and holiday celebrations to acknowledge the support they receive from surrounding communities.
“Everybody who enjoys craft beer seems to have a good attitude,” said Tony Rogers, co-owner of the Tipping Point. “They’re jolly people that always want to give back.”
Started by the United States Marine Corps in 1947, “Toys for Tots” is a renowned foundation that collects Christmas gifts and monetary donations for children and families who are less fortunate, especially during the holiday season.
Collecting and giving out the toys is nearly as rewarding for the volunteers as it is for the children themselves. Brandon Wilson, a Marine and the head the Haywood County chapter of “Toys for Tots,” has delivered toys to children in person at Christmas in his uniform.
“To a kid, you’re not only a hero, but also Santa Claus. The feeling is more than any gift you could ever get,” said Wilson, who is also director of veteran services for the county.
Though he continually had a warm and generous Christmas during his childhood, Wilson feels it’s important to help those that might not be as lucky as he was growing up.
“Families are struggling to keep on the heat, buy groceries and give to their children,” he said. “Christmas is hard and everyone goes through hard times. As a country, we should be sticking together and help one another out.”
Falling under the Western North Carolina “Toys for Tots” program, Haywood County has been participating in the charity for 12 years. According to Wilson, 2,300 toys were collected in Haywood last year, with another $2,000 in donations. Through the collected items and monetary contributions, the program was able to help 2,169 families in Haywood, with this year’s goal to provide assistance to 3,200 or more.
“There’s a huge need for this everywhere in the country, but as economic times are hard it seems to hit our rural communities worse, making the need here bigger,” said Rogers. “I was fortunate to have a good Christmas. I couldn’t imagine a kid not having one, it breaks my heart.”
With a mother, father and brother all serving in the Marines, Rogers knows all too well the mission of “Toys for Tots.”
“You’ve got to give back,” Rogers said.
Next week’s toy drive at Frog Level isn’t the first for the brewery. It also held a successful toy drive and barbeque benefit in October.
A retired Marine himself, Williams sees the pairing of craft beer and charity as a perfect fit, something that hopefully will continue for many more holidays to come.
“Craft beer is a local product, brewed and consumed by local folks,” he said. “It ties us together within the community. When these things comes together, coupled with the charitable event contributions directly benefiting the community, it’s a recipe for success.”
Breweries helping kids
Nantahala, Bryson City
Alongside their special holiday selections and “ugly sweater contest,” the brewery will hold its 2nd annual “Nanta Claus Christmas Children’s Benefit” at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, where it will be accepting toy donations in-person or through the mail for local families in need.
“We live and work in one of the poorest counties in the state,” said Joe Rowland, owner of Nantahala Brewing. “As a successful small business, it was our responsibility to help hardworking, less fortunate families celebrate the holiday. It’s important for us to give back to our community and encourage other businesses do the same.”
The brewery will be holding an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 24, with $1 from each pint sold going to The Community Table, a nonprofit providing food and nutritious meals for families who otherwise would go without.
There will be an “Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and Concert” held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8. Attendees are encouraged to bring a toy donation (under $10) for the Christmas Angel Program. Music will be provided by the Caribbean Cowboys.
Tipping Point, Waynesville
Besides live music and holiday brews on Thursday, Dec. 20, the brewery will be accepting toy donations the entire day. Until then, they’re selling the $1 “children’s trains” and raffle tickets for a kid’s electric Harley Davidson motorcycle, with donations also going to “Toys for Tots.” The event begins at 11:30 a.m., with music starting at 7 p.m. There is no cover charge.
Frog Level, Waynesville
Patrons will be asked for a $20 donation – or preferably two packaged toys – to get into the anniversary celebration on Friday, Dec. 14. With the array of musicians performing, there will also be holiday brews on tap. The event begins at 6 p.m.