Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fewer Treats In Christmas Food Boxes

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, December 16, 2015, by Sara Jewell.

The Christmas Food Boxes prepared every year by the Oxford Lionettes are now filled for 45 families, including 62 children, who are receiving this seasonal help.
            “The boxes are meant to give a little extra help to those who can’t quite make it through the Christmas season, with all of the costs involved,” explained Heather MacDonald, president of the Lionettes club and also a volunteer with the Oxford Food Bank and a member of Trinity United Church in Oxford.
            According to Heather, some of the people on the list use the food bank regularly but she said for more than half, it’s a one-time thing.
“They’re trying to buy Christmas presents and pay the bills so that little extra, like a turkey and groceries, just helps out.”
            But while demand for the boxes is not dropping, the number of donations is. The community groups and organizations that the Lionettes have received financial support from for more than 20 years are dwindling in membership, or even disbanding. Heather sent out eight fewer letters to churches and organizations this year.
            “We also have struggled with food donations for a number of years,” she added. “It started out with all the churches doing white gifts. On the day we used to do the White Gift service, we would take all the gifts into the vestry then they would come pouring in from all these other churches and we would have at least four long tables set up and they’d be loaded.”
            Now many churches are closed or not doing white gifts so a couple of small tables are enough to hold this year’s food donations. It also means extras like baking supplies are now being slashed from the grocery list because of fewer monetary donations.
“We also used to buy pancake mix and syrup because it’s not just dinner,” she said. “You want families to get up Boxing Day and have something to eat. It’s Christmas Day, and a little bit on top of that. But the on-top-of-that is disappearing.”
            Going public with her pleas for help has generated more private donations.
“We’ve had a few more individuals step up which has helped,” Heather said. “Either people will have to step up or we’ll just continue to slash the grocery list.”
            So that’s where this is heading, folks. As fewer of us participate in church and community groups, we need to fill the gap as compassionate, generous individuals.
            And yet, all the calls for donations during the holiday season can be overwhelming, draining both on the emotions and on the bank account.
            Here are a couple of ideas: This year, instead of exchanging gifts, members of the United Church Women’s groups donated boxes of chocolates to be included in the food boxes as treats.
            My own solution is better organization. I’ve gone to my 2016 calendar and written “Xmas Food Boxes” and “Mittens & Socks” on the page for October. I’m going to start that month to collect items for those two seasonal drives. At the same time, I’m going to start buying items regularly for the other organizations I supported this year that have ongoing needs.
            It will take only creative thinking, and a few new habits, to keep the Christmas tradition of helping others alive for another twenty years.

Proof I take my own advice.

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