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Three or four months after I arrived at the Gazette in May 2009, a friend asked if I had started working on Sharing at Christmas yet.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, you’ll see,” she said, with a laugh.
As I arrived home Friday night, with aching feet and back, I remembered that conversation.
Friday was the day that volunteers fanned out across the county, delivering food and toys to help make the holidays brighter for many families in need. It’s a process that has gone on in Union County for 36 years.
It’s a reminder to me that as many of us (mainly me) complain about our petty concerns, there are at east 250 of our neighbors who have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Then there’s the burden of trying to get a little Christmas into the house for the children.
We can only hope they’re not too proud to ask, because, as you’ll see, there is lots of help available. And that’s because of many of you.
The Sharing starts the week of Thanksgiving when the little red thermometer starts appearing on the front page of the Gazette, announcing how much money has been donated.
But raising money is only the beginning of what has grown over the years into a major undertaking for lots of volunteers. The applications of families who ask for help are screened and narrowed to focus the most needy.
Then the work begins of determining the age and gender of children in those families. Volunteers shop for blankets for the elderly and toys for children who are 10 or younger, and then carefully bag them with the name and address where they are to be delivered.
Thousands of pounds of groceries are ordered to supply each family with a holiday dinner. But in addition to the turkey breast, potatoes, cranberry jelly, canned green beans, corn, peas, bread and dessert mixes, there are bags of apples and oranges, peanut butter and jelly, cereal, eggs, and more, so there will be plenty for the next couple of days, too.
On Tuesday of Sharing-at-Christmas week, the work begins at the National Guard Armory as 250 large corrugated boxes are taped up and set out in rows on the concrete floor.
The next day, a semi-trailer loaded with pallet after pallet of groceries backs up to the empty armory. The groceries are distributed among the boxes that will eventually weigh about 40 pounds. Early Friday morning, the turkey breasts are added to the boxes.
In the next four hours, volunteers including Union County employees, sheriff’s deputies, New Albany police and utility-department employees, and trustys from the Union County Jail set out across the county, delivering boxes.
As the deliveries were being made, a reporter for an area television station said she thought it was unusual for a small newspaper like the Gazette to undertake such a project.
“But what do you get out of it?” she asked.
“Like all the volunteers, just a good feeling about helping out in the community,” I said.
But it’s more than that. It gives me a good feeling about the community, that it’s more than a place to live. It’s a place full of people who care about those less fortunate than themselves, people who are willing to share their money and time to make Christmas a little less bleak for their neighbors. Thank you, Union County, for caring and sharing at Christmas.
T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321.