More than 340 families will be able to fill their tables this Christmas thanks to the work of volunteers and dozens of donated hams.
The Second Harvest Partners from Faith Presbyterian Church and Belair United Methodist joined volunteers from the community in helping those in need during the program’s final food distribution of the year Friday morning.
Second Harvest Partners, the local affiliate of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, is comprised of nearly 30 congregations in York and Lancaster Counties. This was the Partners’ biggest distribution day they’ve seen in the 3 1/2 years since they started the tradition, said Jim Northrup, distribution coordinator for the Partners and Faith Presbyterian Elder.
“It’s our little Christmas present,” he said. “We give thanks that we are able to do this.”
Northrup joined 30 volunteers from various churches in the community in sorting, bagging and distributing bags of groceries to the more than 300 vehicles that came through, some representing two to four families.
“This is the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s indicative of the way the economy is right now.”
To receive groceries, families must meet the minimum requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture defining the poverty level, Northrup said. Each family received two bags of groceries and a special surprise for the holidays: The Partners, community members and local businesses helped raise $2,500 to purchase 220 hams from Aldi Foods that were handed out along with the other groceries.
The truck, which was paid for by the Partners through donations, carried 14,000 pounds of food donated by Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. This year, that included 150 turkeys.
“The least we can do is provide (those in need) with a good meal for Christmas,” Northrup said.
Lancaster resident Maggie Davis was the first in line, having arrived at Belair at 6 a.m. Friday morning. Davis said the food helps meet her needs at a time when she cannot provide for herself.
“It means a lot to me to get it,” she said. “I really appreciate it from my heart. I don’t take anything for granted.”
Davis said she will share the food with “whoever is hungry” in her family.
For Indian Land resident Cynthia Frances, the food is a blessing in hard times. Frances was laid off from her job and said the food distributions have helped her provide for her children and family.
“The people are very kind here,” she said. “I am very thankful and appreciate of anything they have.”
Until she can find a new job, Frances said she hopes Congress will extend unemployment benefits set to expire soon so things can improve.
“I’m hoping my whole situation turns around,” she said.
In Lancaster County, the unemployment rate for October 2013, the most recent month statistics available, was 8.8 percent. In York County, the unemployment rate in November was 7.4 percent. It’s 7 percent nationally.
Indian Land resident Jerry Wheeler, who recently faced medical bills and hard times, said he will be able to enjoy the holiday thanks to the food distribution.
“It will help me have Christmas dinner,” he said.
The Partners do four distributions throughout the year, Northrup said.
Many of the volunteers have been involved with the food distributions since they started.
Long-time volunteer Rick Lambert remembered one of the first distributions they held in December 2010, when the temperatures were the coldest he could remember for the time of year.
“People are really thankful to get the food,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to get together and do this for the community.”
Sun City resident Nancy Frost has been volunteering for two years and enjoys helping others.
“It’s something that is a need in the community,” she said. “It’s great to see people happy when they leave.”
Friday, the Partners held the food distribution in honor of Tony May, a member of Faith Presbyterian and a dedicated volunteer with the group who never missed a truck, Northrup said. May passed away last week. The group brought May’s favorite treat to their morning meeting – powdered doughnuts.
“He would have been here this morning and he is here,” Northrup said.
Seeing the large crowd and the cars filling with snacks and the ingredients for a holiday meal, Northrup said the people involved make it all worth the effort.
“We are able to help the community and those in need,” he said. “We can go away from this with warmness in our hearts and a smile on our face.”
For more information on Second Harvest and to donate, go to secondharvestmetrolina.org.