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On Christmas, the spirit is delivered

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By Bobbie Lanham

 Recently at Shelbyville’s Centro Latino, a freezer stood empty except for one small box of food.

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Sister Pat Reno waited in her office for a delivery to help stock the freezer. This year, when times are tougher for many people, those deliveries may be a bit slower than usual. On Christmas Day, while many people will complain of having eaten too much at the usual holiday feast, the Shelby County Optimist Club will for the 15th year of provide that warm holiday meal and is hoping hard times won’t require volunteers to turn away hungry folks. All across the state and in Shelby County, there is need for a hot meal, for a warm jacket and for a little relief from a tough life. Whether at Centro Latino, a mission of the Church of the Annunciation to minister to Shelby County’s growing Hispanic population, or at the Optimist Club’s meal or dozens of other places, 2009 has proven a bit tougher for all to meet the needs they want so desperately to meet. Organizations step up to help, and they find assistance in all sorts of unusual places. ‘They really thank you’ Optimist Club member Lise Sageser of Waddy said she is, well, optimistic about her club’s annual meal. People will flock from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to the Multi-Purpose Community Action Agency on Washington Street.  “Every moment of every Christmas Day for the past 15 years has been glorious,” she said. Sageser, charter member and officer of the club, has helped cook, serve or deliver food to those in the community who might otherwise not have a warm, fresh meal to share with others.  The meal started as a small affair in Operation Care. Eventually, the meal was moved downstairs for a bit more space. Later, the meal was prepared and served at the Stratton Center, but for the past few years, the meal has found its home at the Multi-Purpose building on Washington Street.  This year, the Optimists plan to serve more than 400 children and adults. Bobby Mackey of Waddy is one of the volunteers who delivers meals after he visits with his grandchildren on Christmas morning. “It’s a fun thing to deliver meals. They really thank you for bringing them a meal,” he said. On Christmas morning, meal organizer Jean Glore said she usually gets to the Multi-Purpose building before sunrise to unload gallons of green beans and boxes of instant mashed potatoes and rolls. Volunteers bring cooked turkey, rolls and other items.  This year, the club has had some concerns about having enough food. Recent donations of food and money have eased club members’ concerns about the meal. “It always works out,” Glore said. “We have an assembly line,” she said of the meal preparation on Christmas morning. Volunteers can work an hour or several hours, cooking or delivering meals.  New help On Thanksgiving Day in 1969, police were called to a home in Jefferson County where they found the body of 9-year-old Bobby Ellis. The cause of death: starvation. Also in the house were Bobby’s four emaciated siblings. The next day Father Jack Jones of St. John Catholic Church in Louisville started what became Dare to Care, a food bank that provides food for 13 counties, including Shelby County. Father Jack, who now lives in Simpsonville, is known to members of Church of the Annunciation where he used to say Mass.  In 2008, Dare to Care collected and distributed 12.1 million pounds of food in 13 Kentucky and Southern Indiana counties, including Shelby. And some of the food it distributes includes meat donated by Kentucky hunters.  In Shelby County, hunters who are part of Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry are donating deer meat to the Centro Latino, 121 Main St. in Shelbyville. Many hunters who enjoy the sport but have enough deer meat donate the meat through Dare to Care. Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry handles the cost of processing. Hunters need only deliver the deer.  B & N Foodmart in Bagdad, which processes at a reduced rate meat local volunteers deliver, has so far this season processed 14 donated deer to net about 700 pounds of venison for the needy.  Joe Bland of Waddy, a retired Fish and Wildlife officer, recently delivered 100 pounds of deer meat processed in 5-pound packages of ground meat. Reno, executive director of Centro Latino, calls the meat a “Godsend.” The protein of the meat is a wonderful addition to the usual beans and rice they many times distribute.  Bland shrugs off praise for the donations. However, he added there are many hunters out there that deserve an “’atta boy,” for their contributions. He said many hunters need to know about the program. The hunters’ donations have become “such a hidden blessing,” Reno said.  ‘Their eyes light up’ Cash Express in Shelbyville has an annual Toy and Coat Drive at Christmas. As they usually do, Cash Express employees place empty boxes for donations around town. This year, donations were down. They collected donations from only three of the 12 businesses where they placed boxes. Darlene Wadsworth and Khara Beswick of Cash Express recently delivered toys, coats and some food and put the bags and boxes in a corner of a room at Centro Latino.  “This year didn’t go as well as last year,” store manager Wadsworth said. Regardless of the fewer donations, Reno said she was grateful for the cornerful of boxes and bags they brought. “Little kids come in, and their eyes light up,” she said.  Three men who helped Wadsworth and Beswick carry in boxes and bags of donations picked out winter coats, and one found a toy to take home to his son.  “Even after Christmas people are pleased. What child doesn’t feel happy with a toy?” Reno said.