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Even with the country officially in a recession, two large annual charitable events that feed the needy will help ensure that most people in Shelby County will not go hungry on Christmas Day.
Christmas at Claudia's and the Annual Community Christmas Dinner at the Multi-Purpose Community Action Agency will be held Dec. 21 and Dec. 25, respectively.
Although the deadline has passed to make reservations for Christmas at Claudia's, people still may call to reserve a seat at the community dinner on Christmas Day.
Jean Glore, president of the Shelby County Optimist Club, which sponsors that dinner, said although there is no deadline to make reservations, it helps if people call as soon as they know they are coming.
“The more advance notice we have, the better it is for us because we have more time to prepare,” she said.
Glore has been heading up the event for the past 13 years, and she said that this year she expects to serve even more than the 350 people who showed last year up to eat a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
“We are expecting close to 700 people this year,” she said.
Have they ever run out of food?
“Well, it was close one year, but we have always had enough, except one time we ran out of green beans, and a lady was really upset that she didn't get any,” she recalled.
In addition to the sit-down dinner, shut-ins, or others in need who can't attend, can also have meals delivered to their homes on Christmas Day, Glore said.
She said she thinks tough economic times will send more families to her event. And she said she think they also will be drawn this year because of feature entertainment and door prizes, courtesy of Jacob's Well Ministries.
Connie Kelly of Jacob's Well Ministries said she is going to make sure that everybody who attends the dinner will get clothing and a gift.
“Everybody will get a wrapped present, and everybody is going to get a new outfit,” she said. “I'm going to haul all the clothes down there that's been donated to me over the last year and a half, and we'll set it up for everybody. And we'll be having drawings. We'll be giving away some really nice items.”
Kelly, who operates the ministry year-round, said she is working with the Optimist Club to brighten Christmas for as many people as possible.
“What I want to do is make sure everybody has a Christmas present and that everybody has a little time to share together as a family and have some Christmas music to entertain them,” she said. “And then they can go through and pick an outfit. There's just so many people that this year are not going to have anything.”
Kelly said helping other people at Christmas is important to her because she remembers the pain of not getting anything for Christmas and doesn't want others to have to go through that sadness.
“I do this because when I was a kid, I didn't get any presents, so I want to make sure that other people do,” she said.
The clothing will be located at the Stratton Center, next to the Multi-Purpose building, and people can go over and pick out their outfits after they eat, Kelly said.
The funding for the dinner comes from donations, both from the business sector and from individuals, Glore said. She added that she always needs volunteers to help with the cooking and serving of food.
“We especially need someone who can cook a turkey or two for us,” she said.
Like Kelly, she said she cares about the homeless and the needy and wants them to have something good to eat for Christmas.
“Why have I spent every Christmas for the past 13 years doing this? Because I like to help people,” she said. “I have family and I know I am going to have Christmas, but some people don't.”
Glore said she has grown fond of those who volunteer to help out at the event each year, many of whom do so because they came to the dinner themselves in the past.
“We have one little old lady in her 80s who first came to the dinner about 10 years ago to eat, and she has been coming back every year since then to help cook,” she said.
“And we always need more volunteers; they can really make the difference.”
Glore said that even though food may start getting low and the volunteers start getting worried that there won't be enough to feed everybody, she always tells them to have faith, because the Lord will provide.
“Sometimes you think you're not going to have enough food, but it always works out,” she said. “One year we were running out of turkey, and everybody was getting worried. And I said, 'Don't worry, God will provide because He always does.' And then somebody came in with some more turkeys they had cooked.”
Judy Roberts of Operation Care, the organization that assists with Christmas at Claudia's, said donations for that event, which costs about $10,000 to put on, are a little short this year, because they already have 1,742 confirmed to eat this year, up from last year's 1,500 people.
“But I think we will be OK,” she said.
The event, which is in its fourth year, will be held at Claudia Sanders Dinner House. In addition to dinner, people will also receive a toy for the children, blankets, and books. In order to attend, one has to apply through the school system.
Roberts is also in charge of heading up the Point In Time Count, to be held on Jan. 29. On that day, each Kentucky county will conduct a count of the homeless people in its area. The count is done all on the same day statewide to keep from counting someone twice in the event they have roamed from one county to another, she said.
How do they find the homeless so quickly?
“We check the soup kitchens and the motels, because some organizations put up a person or a family for a night in a motel,” she said. “And sometimes you see them on the street. They're easy to spot because they're carrying everything they own around with them.”
Funding for the food pantry run by Operation Care comes from the Kentucky Department of Housing and is determined for each county from the homeless count, Roberts said.
“Our food bank caters to the homeless, with canned food that doesn't have to be prepared, you can just open it and eat it,” she said.
Roberts said the number of people coming to Christmas at Claudia's is growing because the number of homeless is also growing.
“The numbers grow every year,” she said. “Some are homeless through bad choices, like drugs, and others have lost their jobs and their homes.
Roberts said area churches help with the homeless, which totaled 7,136 statewide in 2007.
“New Zion Baptist runs a soup kitchen two days and week, and Victory Baptist does one once a week, so there's three days a week that people can have something to eat,” she said.
Louise Riley of Claudia Sanders Dinner House said the restaurant to glad to be able to provide a place for people in need to eat Christmas dinner.
“We have been so blessed,” she said. “We are always happy to do this. And this year we are so excited because we will have something new. Each child will get a teddy bear, a book, a candy stocking and a hygiene kit. And also this year, each child will get a basketball, and Denny Crumb will be here to autograph them.”
The Shelbyville Orchestra is scheduled to provide music for the event.
Roberts said she is glad the event will provide these things for the children.
“I am so sad for the children,” she said. “They are so innocent. They don't make choices, they just suffer the consequences.”
Text box info
Christmas Dinner Info
• To order a free Christmas dinner to be delivered to you, call 738-5506
• For information about Jacob's Well Ministries, call 321-6097
• To make a donation to the Optimist Club, send to 10345 Mount Eden Road, Waddy, Ky. 40076
• To make a donation to Operation Care, call 633-1965
• To volunteer to help out at the Community Christmas dinner, call 738-5506