Christmas With Dignity

Published 11:10 pm Saturday, December 12, 2009

The doors were to open at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, but those needing food for the holidays started lining up at 8 in front of the parish hall of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

An early morning temperature of 25 degrees may have chilled their bodies, but they stayed there waiting.

Around the corner was a semi truck carrying close to 20,000 pounds of food, enough to take care of the 650 families who had signed up this year for the church’s annual Christmas With Dignity.

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In each cardboard box stacked inside the semi’s trailer was $100 worth of groceries. There were frozen turkeys, beef patties, yam patties, mix vegetables, chicken soup, Salisbury steak, green beans, stuffing, potatoes au gratin and pie. Those supplies were provided to residents of Lawrence County from All Saints Lutheran Church in Worthington.

This Christmas the church was able to supply about 30 more families than last year, but the Rev. David Ritchie, St. Paul’s pastor, said there were more who needed the help, if the resources had been there.

“It is spread all over the board,” Ritchie said about the demographic of need. “It’s single elderly, a lot of working families come through here and retirees who can’t make it on a fixed income.”

Ritchie cites the low income many families can only bring in despite the fact that there are two in the family working.

“They are underpaid,” he said. “Two spouses working at minimum wage just can’t feed a family of four or more. We see a lot of that.”

It is the sixth year for the Christmas With Dignity program, but only the second for giving out food boxes. Previously gifts and toys were distributed.

“Last year we saw such a need the way the economy is for food,” Ritchie said. “It was overwhelming. If the resources were there, we could triple that. People are still calling to see if we have boxes.”

One of those braving the cold Saturday was Paul Pickett of Coal Grove, who had come to St. Paul’s to pick up food for a neighbor who is elderly, disabled and diabetic.

“She can’t get out much,” Pickett said. “I think this is wonderful. There are a lot of people who need this. I’m glad God has made a way for some to get something.”

Just before the doors were to open Ritchie led the half-dozen or so volunteers in prayer reminding them that helping others was directed by Jesus. Then he went outside to speak to a crowd that reached about a block down Center Street.

“This is all about love,” Ritchie told those in line. “We are all needy. Let us be thankful that those with resources are helping.”

Then the crowd filed into the parish hall to have their names marked off the registration before heading outside to the truck where volunteers carted the boxes to their cars.

While the Saturday giveaway has been only at Christmas, since February there is a twice monthly food pantry at St. Paul’s, sponsored by the Lutheran Social Services. Usually 8,000 pounds of food are given away each month on the second and fourth Thursdays.

“There are so many people in Southern Ohio choosing between medicine and food,” Mark McPherson of the Lutheran organization said. “It’s the goal of the Lutheran Social Services to help with hunger, housing, hope and health. I’m helping with the hunger and the hope and the health have been increased.”

Also the service provides periodic health screenings and on the fourth Thursday the Southern Ohio Legal Aid will offer assistance.

In 2008, the LSS provided 184,000 meals for families last year from four sites in Columbus, Fairfield, and Caldwell.

For more information on registering for the bimonthly food program at St. Paul’s or on qualifications contact 877-704-3663.