This week we are extremely busy preparing to bag up toys for over 1,800 children and fill 1,700 holiday food boxes over the weekend. Toys have been donated at many businesses and churches. The community has been generous with donations in order to provide a holiday meal plus several other meals for families in Itasca County and Hill City.
Difficult economic times means fewer toys have been donated than in the past. We will have enough for every child who has been referred to get at least one toy and a book, but that might be all we can do. Some years we have been able to give a toy, a stuffed animal and a book, or a toy and some stocking stuffers and a book. The community has been as generous as it can be. These are tough times for many of us. Some people who used to donate are now recipients.
When we planned the food for the food boxes in September, the economy was sagging but it hadn't collapsed yet. We planned for about a 15% increase in food needs. Now the 1,700 food boxes we are packing on Sunday will barely meet the need. We won't turn anyone away, but some might be referred to use the food shelf instead of receiving the holiday food box.
People are coming for help that never needed it before. They are ashamed and appalled to have to ask for food for their family. We are here to help them. But I worry about how we will help everyone who needs us next year. We can barely keep up with the need now. Where will the food and the money come from to feed all the new people who are hungry?
I'm hungry for something to hope for. Optimism is in short supply. Malaise about the future has affected almost everyone. But there is one bright spot that gives us hope - people really do care about their neighbors. During this season of sharing, we have overwhelming support from volunteers. Volunteers and donors keep us going.