Durham, N.C. — Among the tall, fragrant evergreen trees dressed up in fancy ribbons and glittering ornaments that adorn Diamond View Park at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, stands one sad, small, needle-bare tree with a message.
Needy families rely on charity not only at Christmas, but throughout the year.
So, instead of decorating a tree like dozens of other local charities did for the second annual Triangle Christmas Tree Challenge, the United Way of the Greater Triangle left their skinny Tannenbaum naked of the traditional Christmas trimmings.
Beside the tree, the charity placed a book that tells the story of a single mother and her young son who have battled unemployment and homelessness.
Jackie Jones and 8-year-old Joseph, of Durham, are just two of the 206,941 people estimated to be living in poverty in the Triangle alone, according to the United Way.
"It's important for people to realize that the need is there all year round," said Jennifer Bosk, a spokeswoman for the organization.
The Joneses now live in temporary housing thanks to a charity the United Way serves, but they continue to struggle.
"It's been very challenging," Jones said. "But I have strong faith and a lot of hope."
A college graduate, Jones never imagined she would be jobless and homeless.
"Of course, you feel like a failure at first, but you have to do what you have to do for your child," she said.
This year, along with decorations and presents donated by the United Way, Joseph is enjoying his first real Christmas tree, his mother said.
Nonprofit organizations that take the top spots at the Triangle Christmas Tree Challenge get cash prizes for their charities. Viewers can vote for their favorite tree by clicking here. Voting continues through Sunday.