The Constitution-Tribune's 29th annual Food for the Needy share drive got its official start today (Tuesday, Nov. 20), with the hope that $10,000 in cash and food items will be raised to help brighten the holiday season for people in and around Chillicothe.

Large red food collection boxes will be placed at the Constitution-Tribune business office, Hy-Vee Food Store and Piggly Wiggly, and will remain in place until Dec. 17.

"The boxes are placed at the front doors of the grocery stores to serve as a reminder that we do have people in our community who are in need of some of life's most basic needs," said Publisher Rod Dixon. "We just ask shoppers to keep these people in mind as they do their shopping."

The C-T Food for the Needy campaign, held each year in cooperation with The Salvation Army in Chillicothe, began in 1983 with a $1,000 goal, and has raised more than $275,00 in cash and canned goods since its inception. This year's goal is $10,000. This amount includes financial figures of the donated canned goods and the non-perishable food items at retail grocery store prices, as well as cash donations.

A need for financial and food assistance exists in the community, according to Major John Flanagan, of The Salvation Army in Chillicothe.

He said The Salvation Army is seeing a trend of larger families — including some extended and blended families — seeking assistance. Those needing help are not only those falling below the government's poverty guidelines, but also individuals and families who may have experienced a recent crisis, such as job loss.

"We take it on a case by case basis," Flanagan said, referring to the application guidelines for those seeking assistance.

Major Flanagan said ideal donations, in addition to monetary gifts, include items such as canned soups, canned vegetables and canned fruit, canned tuna, peanut butter, boxed pudding, Jell-O mixes and other non-perishable food items. Monetary donations are used to purchase milk, meat, fruit, produce and other perishable food items. Food collected through the food drive but not distributed in the Christmas baskets helps to stock the shelves at The Salvation Army. The Food for the Needy share drive is one of The Salvation Army's two food drives annually, with the other one being the Letter Carriers food drive each spring.

The annual food drive is held in cooperation with The Salvation Army's Christmas appeal. Donations to Food for the Needy will be combined with The Salvation Army's kettle campaign, which is hoped to raise between $28,000 and $29,000. The Salvation Army's annual mail appeal goal is approximately $43,000.

The Salvation Army began its bell-ringing kettle campaign on Nov. 13, at Hy-Vee and Piggly Wiggly, and will start at Wal-Mart on Friday (Nov. 23).
Volunteers are needed to help ring bells, Flanagan said, and anyone interested should contact the Salvation Army office at 646-3538.