Red bags overflowing with food items fill a room at the distribution center and are ready to be given to individuals and families who are experiencing difficult financial times. There were 152 families and 215 children for a total of 474 individuals who applied for assistance this Christmas, significantly higher than last year’s numbers. (RIGHT) Bags are filled with gifts for individuals through The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. The food bags and gift bags were prepared by The Salvation Army with tremendous community support, according to Lynda Snuffer, Salvation Army case manager. Distribution takes place today. Although the Christmas food baskets are being distributed today, the Food for the Needy program continues in the community for a couple more weeks to help stock pantry shelves at The Salvation Army.
The Constitution-Tribune’s 35th annual Food for the Needy holiday share drive is well under way through the partnership of the newspaper and The Salvation Army, along with Hy-Vee Food Store, Sliced Bread Market and Wal-Mart.
Large red wooden bins are set up at the local grocery stores to make it convenient for people to donate canned food or non-perishable food items for local residents. The bins will remain in place through Jan. 1.
The Food for the Needy share drive began in 1983 with a $1,000 goal and has since become a Chillicothe holiday tradition. The Constitution-Tribune sponsors the share drive each year in cooperation with The Salvation Army in Chillicothe. Since its inception, the effort has raised an estimated $343,000 in cash and food items for people in need.
The food drive raised $16,500 last year in food and monetary donations combined. The effort typically is The Salvation Army’s largest community-supported food collection project and helps stock the shelves of the pantry throughout the year.
So far, the food and monetary collection is coming in slower than in previous years. Salvation Army officials have not yet calculated the value of the food items that have been donated; however, they estimated around $3,500 in food items have been donated. Monetary donations are also being accepted for The Salvation Army to purchase perishable food items, such as meat and produce. To date, $1,250 in cash has been donated.
The boxes at the grocery stores serve as a reminder that there are people in the community in need of some of life’s most basic needs, said C-T News Editor Cathy Ripley.
“We ask shoppers to keep these people in mind as they shop,” she added.
Ripley and Lt. Shannon Forney, Corps officer of The Salvation Army in Chillicothe, expressed appreciation to the grocery stores for making it convenient for donors to give by having the boxes at their entrances.
Need knows no season and The Salvation Army has seen its clientele more than double in size since the beginning of the year, according to Forney.
When the year began, The Salvation Army was averaging between 20 and 25 clients (either individuals or families) per month; however, after a case manager was hired this summer, the volume of clients increased to around 80 per month, with the highest being 125 in one month.
Forney said the increase is likely due people becoming more aware of services offered, the food pantry reopening and the positive experiences that clients have when visiting with the case worker.
Food donation suggestions include any kind of vegetables (although the pantry has a good supply of green beans at this time), cereals, dry mixes, soups, pasta, pasta sauce, peanut butter, jelly, stuffing, Hamburger Helper mixes, cake mixes, potatoes, soups, tuna, rice, macaroni and cheese, crackers, canned fruit, canned meat, powdered milk, and tea bags. The Salvation Army also gets requests of food to accommodate restricted diets, such as gluten free or low sugar foods suitable for diabetic diets.
The Salvation Army also accepts perishable food items, such as refrigerated or frozen meats that can be delivered directly to The Salvation Army and not left in the red bins.
The number of individuals who have signed up for Christmas baskets has more than doubled over last year, Forney said. There were 40 applications last year and this year she estimates the number to be near 90. In Trenton, which is also served by the Chillicothe Salvation Army, the number of Christmas basket applications also more than doubled from 20 last year, to 44 this year. Food that goes into the Christmas baskets include a ham and whatever could provide a Christmas meal. This could include pasta mixes, vegetables, canned fruit, potatoes and gravy packets. Food basket distribution will be Wednesday, December 20.
Donations are used for The Salvation Army’s Christmas basket distribution as well as to help stock the shelves throughout the coming year.
Those wishing to make monetary donations may bring their gifts to the C-T business office or mail them to Food for the Needy, Constitution-Tribune, P.O. Box 707, Chillicothe, MO 64601. Checks should be made payable to Food for the Needy.