Thanks to all who’ve volunteered to help pack toys for the annual Second Harvest Food Shelf “Itasca Holiday Program.” This year, the event–which involves a large group of families, individuals and community groups–will take place at a new location, in the gym/cafeteria at Zion Lutheran Church, 2901 S Highway 169 in Grand Rapids. We’re asked to be there by 9:00am on Saturday, Dec. 13th. Many of us have volunteered at the Food Shelf on our own in various capacities over the years, but last year we participated as an official community group for the first time. It was, as always, heart-warming to devote a morning to helping others have a more joyful holiday season. I look forward to seeing many of you there!
In case you didn’t see this week’s article about the program in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, I’ll paste it in below. If you have questions, bounce an e-mail to me at email@example.com -Amy
From the 12/4/14 Grand Rapids Herald-Review Online:
“More than 1,800 gift bags will be filled on Saturday, Dec. 13 and the goal is to have enough donated items to provide each referred child with a gift. Second Harvest is in need of new, unwrapped gifts for children ranging in age from one to 12 years, especially ages 1, and 9 – 12.
Gift donations are being collected at many local businesses, retailers and churches. Donations can be dropped at any of the red and green gingerbread giving tree locations, Toys for Tots locations, or brought directly to Second Harvest during regular business hours. The deadline for all toy donations is Friday, Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. Donations can be brought to Second Harvest or Zion Lutheran Church.
Gift suggestions include toys and games for children age 1-12, hats, mittens and gloves, sports equipment, and personal care items for the older age groups. Suggested price range is $10-$20.
The holidays are especially difficult for struggling working families. Home heating costs and seasonal layoffs put a dent in very tight budgets. If it wasn’t for the food and gifts provided by Second Harvest’s Itasca Holiday Program, there might not be those special holiday meals or gifts under the tree.
One young woman who was signing up for the holiday program recently shared what it meant for her family.
“Last year we did not know about the program and we had nothing for the kids that year. When they were really little it didn’t matter that much, but to explain to them at this age that Santa won’t be coming to our house because we can’t afford gifts, is really hard. My husband’s hours keep getting cut and my job pays minimum wage. We are grateful to be able to look forward to a better Christmas this year, because we can breathe a little easier knowing we will have the extra food and some things under the tree. It helps a lot,” she said tearfully.
The holiday season is difficult for this Grand Rapids mom and her family. A majority of the 46.5 million Americans who used a food shelf in the Feeding America network last year live in working households; 25 million people, including children, are in working families that relied on food shelves to stave off hunger, according to a new study by Oxfam America and Feeding America. According to “From Paycheck to Pantry: Hunger in Working America” client households with employment utilize multiple strategies to secure enough food for the family. Three quarters of employed client households report making the choice between paying for food and paying for utilities as well as making choices between paying for food and transportation. Many families simply can’t feed themselves without utilizing public and private safety net programs and other coping strategies such as watering down food and beverages.
Second Harvest recognizes the need to help these struggling working families and the low income seniors and disabled adults in the community. The primary component of the Itasca Holiday Program is a special food box containing traditional holiday foods and other items to provide for several additional meals. A $15 grocery voucher is included for a holiday turkey or other food item that the family would like. Funds are needed to provide for the food required to fill 1,800 food boxes. The food boxes and gifts will be distributed at eight locations throughout Itasca County beginning Sunday, Dec. 14 through Thursday, Dec. 18.
According to Sue Estee, Second Harvest Executive Director, “Distribution of 1,800 food boxes and over 1,850 gift bags takes a lot of effort. Starting this week, hundreds of volunteers will be engaged in preparing, sorting and packing the gift bags, bagging fruit and helping to distribute the food boxes and gift bags in Grand Rapids and the other seven communities. Area food shelves have been working since October to sign up eligible families, local businesses, retailers and churches have been collecting gifts and many people and organizations have donated gifts and funds for the holiday food boxes. The people of Itasca County and Hill City really come together to provide a brighter holiday for their friends and neighbors.”
Second Harvest North Central Food Bank serves 130 hunger relief agencies in Koochiching, Itasca, Cass, Aitkin, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs and Kanabec counties. 4.5 million pounds of food and grocery products were distributed through those agencies in 2013. For more information regarding Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, visit www.secondharvestncfb.com or call 218.326.4420.”