‘Christmas with Dignity’ helps feed area’s needy

Published 10:59 pm Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just after 9 a.m. Saturday, a small line of people stood bundled up against the cold at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

In spite of the icy air, those who waited came with a purpose: Any moment now a truck would pull up bearing a very tangible sort of Christmas cheer. It would come bearing boxes of food.

“I have it rough anyway,” Linda Jenkins of Ironton, said. So the holiday season puts an even bigger strain on an already strained budget. This box of food, she said, was going to help.

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In previous years, St. Paul and a sister congregation, All Saints Lutheran, near Columbus, have teamed up to donate Christmas toys and other gifts to needy area families in what is called “Christmas with Dignity.” This year they instead opted to give food boxes.

“We really felt at this time, helping people with food during this (poor) economy was more important,” All Saints member Kay Labosky explained.

St. Paul member Barb Dickison agreed.

“Toys won’t feed them,” she said.

The food boxes, valued at $75-$100, were purchased from a California organization called Treasure Box, which obtains surplus food in bulk, repackages it and sells each box for $30. Both churches raised the money — more than $20,000 total — and purchased more than 600 boxes of food to give away.

The boxes contained ham, beef, a whole chicken, frozen vegetables, hot dogs, applesauce cups and even a pecan pie.

Barb Packer, director of food pantries for Lutheran Social Services, said she hopes to eventually offer food boxes regularly throughout the year in Ironton and not just at Christmas. Plans are also to establish a Benefit Bank, a clearinghouse where area residents can get information about and assistance applying for various forms of aid.

More than 20 volunteers were involved in Saturday’s effort.

The Rev. David Ritchie, pastor of St. Paul, said there is a message he hopes goes with each box of food, a message of hope and friendship.

“First of all I want them to know our Lord God loves them and this is a way the people of God can show that love to them. No matter what the person’s plight is, God loves them and God wants to be there with them and they can helped in any situation in life,” Ritchie said.