By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
On Christmas Day, 228 families in the Corbin area had a lot to be grateful for.
Grateful for the bountiful boxes of food they received from the Corbin Lions Club’s 65th annual Christmas Basket program.
Whether those eligible to be in this year’s program had the baskets delivered to their door by club members and volunteers, or picked them up with proper identification at the Corbin Vocational Center, Tuesday morning was time for the helpers to get into high gear — and the results a blessing for those families who needed help.
“Most of them feel very grateful and appreciative of the help with providing them a good Christmas, as well as their families,” said Jim Manning, Corbin Lions Club Secretary who spent all of Christmas Eve morning either in the cold, wind and flurries, or going back inside the vocational center to pick up and carry food boxes to people waiting outside in their vehicles.
One little helper used her day off from school helping her dad and his brother brighten the spirits of those who stopped by.
“Melanie’s been a good helper today. She’s helped with loading everything up for the people who are picking up their food baskets. The milk, the bread, the pop, and everything else. She’s really done a fine job, and she’s hoping Santa will reward her with presents,” Steve McWilliams of Keavy said about nine-year-old Melanie McWilliams.
Indeed she did.
As the morning’s chill gave way to some big-time snow flurries, Melanie grabbed a 1.5 liter bottle of soda pop inside the vocational center’s auto shop, and joined Steve outside as he carried a large box of food to a smiling woman waiting outside her vehicle.
She then gave the big pop bottle to her uncle, and he put it in the trunk of the woman’s car.
Steve added Melanie’s concern for people comes from her father, Shawn — a long-time Lions Club member.
“She did it for all the right reasons. For Christmas, Jesus’ birthday, the spirit of giving and helping others,” Steve said.
The task of getting over 200 food baskets delivered or picked up got off to an early start as always. That’s according to Corbin Lions Club President Mike Pawula.
“We had a good group there at breakfast this morning. We talked about what we would do, and the volunteers have done a great job. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t have this. There were 228 baskets here in Corbin. And there were 12 given to a new club, the Laurel Community Lions Club, to help feed families in their territory. With the cold and a little snow on top of it, it’s been perfect. I’d rather have this weather than a pouring hard rain,” he noted.
Fellow Lions Club member Manning said having some families pick up the food baskets at the vocational center — which started for the first time this year — got off to a fine start.
“It started out a little slow at first, but they’ve picked up good at about 9:30-9:45 p.m. Overall, the process of picking up and delivering the food went real well. We had all the delivery routes out by 8:30 a.m. There were 30 routes, around 25 vehicles we used, and about 50-60 volunteers helping out. The deliveries were fantastic. We were able to reach 120 people with deliveries. And here at the vocational center we’ll have 100 pickups when we finish around 11:30 this morning,” he pointed out.
Much of the groundwork for Tuesday’s food baskets being delivered and picked up was done by several volunteers last Saturday.
That morning, those wanting to help with the project came to the Corbin Vocational Center to fill each of the 200-plus boxes with a variety of foods. The foods ranged from canned ham, sliced turkey with gravy, bread, canned vegetables, milk, bread, Pepsi, fresh fruit, flour, margarine, and candy.
During Tuesday’s chilly conditions with temperatures in the low-to-mid 20s, those doing the work carrying the food to people’s vehicles dealt with it in a fun way.
Two doors of the vocational center’s auto shop were wide open, so volunteers could get in, get the food, and get over to someone’s car or truck pronto.
And, it was cold inside too.
“Well, at least we know the milk won’t go bad today,” said a volunteer as he grabbed two gallons of milk from the box indoors, and took it over to a person waiting outside in a van.
Despite winter’s cold and bluster, Manning said many people answered the call.
“If you didn’t have to work on Christmas Eve, I’d say there’s a lot of people staying home or doing last minute shopping. But then again, we have several club members who have taken off from work today to help out with this effort,” he added.
And for over 200 families who received the food baskets, a lot of them said, “Thank You.”
Robbie Croley and his cousin John have been volunteering with the Christmas Basket program. They were there again Tuesday, helping out.
Croley called the act of altruism the “Spirit of the Season.”
“It’s very fulfilling to volunteer your service to the community. This fulfills a need. I feel like people should want to give back to the community. You see those who are content to get up Christmas Eve at 10 a.m. and do nothing. I decided to help out, and have for years. Merry Christmas,” he said.