With the holiday season in full swing, local nonprofit agencies are gearing up to help local families in need.
Need Line, a local emergency food and shelter program, is busy preparing its annual Christmas boxes to give out to people.
Tonia Casey, executive director of Need Line, said the boxes are filled with traditional holiday food such as meat, potatoes and cranberry sauce.
“Christmas is not so much about the gifts, but the making the meal together as a family,” Casey said. “Food is a very important throughout the year, but to have that one important special meal as a family together pulls the rest of Christmas together.”
She said since Christmas is a celebration, a cake mix and frosting is also included in the boxes for the families to prepare.
Lack of food and security is a big issue in the Murray community, Casey said. Around 1,000 people come to Need Line every month to apply for help.
“We try to meet the need year round, she said. “Not just during Christmas. But to me, it’s just an extra special time we really need to open our hearts to those who are less fortunate.”
Casey said local businesses, churches and organizations come together to help put the boxes together and make it possible for families, who would otherwise have no Christmas, enjoy the holiday.
She said this year’s program is planning to help at least 600 families throughout the holidays.
Casey said working at Need Line allows her to see miracles happen every day.
Last year, around the holiday season, a regular client of Need Line came in to pick up his box and donated a dollar to help other families, she said. He only had $1 left and he still gave it to help someone else in need.
“When you don’t have much to give, but you still give it, what a difference it can make,” she said. “I said this one dollar has been so blessed that it is going to help more families than anything else.”
Casey said it is important for people to give instead of receive, especially during the holidays.
“The gift of giving is immeasurable,” Casey said. “When you help someone one in need you help yourself in return.”
She said the joy of making a positive impact on a person’s life is what keeps her going to work everyday.
“It reminds me, this job, especially during the holiday season, why I am here,” she said. “It reminds me that I am so blessed and so fortunate. I have been blessed in a lot of ways when I received this job.”
Casey said without the kindness of volunteers the program would not be able to provide the Christmas boxes.
Last year, when the boxes were distributed, volunteers stood outside in the cold singing Christmas carols and handing candy canes to the kids, she said. Everyone came together and was jubilant. At the end of the night it started snowing, and everyone was saying it was a perfect ending, she said.
“I believe the volunteers got more out of it than folks who received the boxes,” Casey said.
Roger Weis, professor of youth and non-profit leadership, said youth and non-profit leadership students help collect toys and clothing for families who would other wise not have those during the holidays.
Weis said YNL students volunteer to help Need Line throughout the year.
“Need Line has been doing a great job of serving families in Murray and Calloway County,” he said. “Many people who have had prosperity recognize there are many people who are in need,”
Loretta Jobs, volunteer for Kids Against Hunger, a U.S.-based humanitarian food organization, said the organization is working with Need Line to provide children with six meals in their backpacks every Friday so they do not go home hungry
“You can make a difference in a child’s life,” Jobs said. “Teachers have said since receiving the casseroles for the backpacks, kids are not coming to the teachers on Monday morning saying they are hungry. The kids are more focused.”