Monday, November 30, 2015

2015 Itasca Holiday Program

In collaboration with hundreds of donors and volunteers, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank will help fill empty plates this holiday season. Second Harvest works all year providing hunger relief to low income people in the region. During the holidays, families already struggling to put food on the table experience extra pressure to make ends meet. The Itasca Holiday Program has been helping families have a brighter holiday for the past 21 years.
Special holiday food boxes are the primary focus of the program. The boxes contain foods for traditional holiday meals plus several additional meals. Over 1,800 food boxes, along with a bag of seasonal fruit and a $15 grocery voucher, will be distributed to referred families, seniors and disabled adults in Itasca County and Hill City during the week of December 13 -17. Children ages 1-12 in the households receiving a food box will be given a gift bag provided by donations through the Gingerbread Giving Trees and Toys for Tots in Itasca County. 

For the second year in a row, due to space limitations at Second Harvest Food Bank, the gift collection and distribution will be conducted at Zion Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids.  Beginning in early December, Zion will provide space in the Christian Life Center to sort and store the donated gifts.  Volunteer activities related to gift sorting will be held at Zion during the week of December 7th culminating with distribution of food boxes and gifts to Grand Rapids area referred families with children on December 13 and 14. 
Grand Rapids distribution moved to the Zion Lutheran Church last year and not only alleviated the holiday space crunch at Second Harvest but allowed more convenient distribution times for referred families and volunteers.  Once again, families will have the choice to pick up their food box and gifts on two different days, one being a weekend.  “Since so many of our participants are working families, offering the Sunday distribution time helps make it easier for people to pick up their food boxes and gifts”, according to Sue Estee, Second Harvest Executive Director.  “The new Sunday volunteer day also provides more opportunities for people to get involved and help others during the holidays,” Estee added.  Grand Rapids participants without children who qualify for Food Boxes will pick up at Second Harvest usual.

Food box and gift distribution at the other locations in Itasca County and Hill City will go on the same as in previous years.  Referred families from Deer River, Bigfork, Inger, Squaw Lake, Nashwauk, Taconite and Hill City will pick up at the same locations as last year.  Community volunteers coordinate referral and distribution in each community, making the Itasca Holiday Program truly an effort of neighbors helping neighbors. 

The many annual activities related to the Itasca Holiday Program have begun. The program appeal is out, the Gingerbread Giving Trees are going up, and referred families are signing up for the program. The gratitude of the families is evident as they thank Second Harvest for the food, and express how little they would have for their children if it weren’t for this program.

While signing up for the program, one mother explained “I have two girls’ ages three and six years old, and they hear from everyone, “you don’t get presents if you’re bad”.  My girls have not been bad, but they get hardly anything at Christmas because I can’t afford it and pay the other bills, too.  I never want them to think they are bad just because I don’t have the money to give them special things on Christmas.  I know the holidays aren’t supposed to be about what you get, but I want to be a parent who can give some presents to my kids and make them feel good and happy on Christmas. Without your help, that would be impossible for me and it’s tough to admit that.”
The need for hunger relief continues to increase in our community.  So far this year, food shelves have seen a 15% increase in people coming for help.  High costs for food, transportation and housing put a squeeze on low income families and those on fixed incomes.  Winter causes extra strain on already tight budgets.  The food boxes provided by the holiday program provide extra food at a time that so many struggling families, low income seniors and people with disabilities really need it.

Second Harvest’s annual Itasca Holiday Program enables the community to reach out to their neighbors during this season of sharing. We are fortunate to live in such a caring community.

Please help Second Harvest feed hope this holiday season.
(Pictured here: (1)L & M employees with SHNCFB staff Ellen Christmas kicking off the Itasca Holiday Program.  (2)Children helping others by donating gifts to the Itasca Holiday Program)
Give Today!
Join Itasca County officers and employees at the Itasca County Courthouse on Friday, December 11th from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm for a benefit lunch. All proceeds help support the Itasca Holiday Program.

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