Season of Need

Published 9:44 pm Saturday, November 22, 2008

The painting is as much a part of Americana as White Christmases and jingle bells: the Norman Rockwell rendering of the family gathered around the table at Thanksgiving, staring in awe at a turkey and all the trimmings.

For some in Lawrence County and elsewhere, that Thanksgiving dinner may in fact come from the generosity of others.

Area organizations that serve the needy say requests for help have increased already or they anticipate an increase this year.

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A meal and thanks

The Ironton City Mission is normally a busy place.

Volunteers prepare and serve a lunch each day to some needy people while others come in search of free clothing or other assistance.

On Thursday, the needy will find a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Last year the mission served 497 Thanksgiving meals.

City Mission Director, the Rev. Jeff Cremeans, said he thinks the volunteers who serve those meals will be busier this year than they were in years previous.

“I really think we’ll see more. We’ve had new families call and ask about Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Cremeans said. “I’ll be surprised if we don’t go above 500 meals.”

Approximately 100 meals are eaten at the mission; the rest of carried out or delivered to shut-ins.

By the time the last table is cleaned, nearly 50 volunteers will have helped in some way with the Thanksgiving dinner, either by preparing food, delivering meals or cleaning up afterward.

But for Cremeans and the staff and volunteers at the city mission, their work is far from over once the turkey is served.

The next day, they will start work on the Christmas food and toy boxes that are handed out in late December.

365 days a year

Many local churches and organizations, including the city mission, provide assistance to the needy all year long.

First United Methodist Church food pantry does not hand out a holiday-specific box but they do offer boxes of food to the needy three times a week.

Director Colleen Massey said the number of people lining up for the food boxes seems to be on the rise.

“We had 100 more in October than we did in September,” she said. “I don’t have any figures yet for this month but we had 27 people, families, come in Wednesday (Nov. 19),” she said.

Massey noted that the number of people asking for help at her food pantry increases at or near the end of each month.

There is also an increase when the weather gets cold, and families in crisis must weigh the choice of paying the utilities bills and staying warm or buying food to keep from going hungry.

When the temperature drops, Massey said the Methodist food pantry tries to keep coats and blankets on hand for the needy as well.

Cremeans said some of the people who come in through his doors asking for food, clothing or other assistance are people he sees regularly. Others are new people who come face-to-face with the economic recession and have turned to him for help.

A helping hand

Cremeans said the meal — and the city mission’s work with the needy all year long — is a community effort and he appreciates those who donate money and food items to make Thanksgiving Day and every other day of the year a better one for those in need.

“No way do we do it all by ourselves, nor could we,” Cremeans said. “The community helps us and we are so appreciative.”

Massey said donations of cash and food are always welcome.

“So far this year we haven’t run out. We did have to close a couple of days, I think it was last year (for lack of food) but so far we haven’t had to this year,” she said.

To make a donation of food or cash to the First United Methodist Church food pantry, call 532-1196. To make a donation to the city mission, call 532-5041.