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While shoppers dashed for some last minute gifts on Christmas Eve, people in a couple of places in Shelbyville were already in the giving mode.
The Multi-Purpose Community Action Agency Senior Center and Centenary United Methodist Church each held a holiday meal on Monday, MPCAA with a community-wide meal created by the Optimist Club and church in conjunction with God’s Kitchen.
Susan Travis, president of the Shelby County Optimist Club, glanced around at the roomful of people who were getting an early start in the serving line, where numerous volunteers were dishing up turkey and dressing and all the trimmings.
The holiday mood was high, and language was no barrier, as smiles, laughter and goodwill expressed all that needed to be said.
Travis said the Optimist Club has been doing a holiday meal for nearly 20 years now, but this year members decided to broaden the event a bit by inviting the children on their Angel Tree list to come and bring their families, not only to eat, but also to “shop” for them.
“We have quite an assortment of donated items here that the children can shop for their families,” she said, pointing toward the main room of the center, located on Washington Street.
“I donated a lot of stuff for them, some stuffed animals and toys,” said Kelsey Weaver, one of several children who volunteered to help out with the shopping portion of the event.
“Me, too, we donated things, too,” Ben Brown and Elizabeth Travis chimed in.
In the dining room, volunteers not only staffed the serving tables, but also worked to box up meals to be taken to those who couldn’t make it to the event.
The group of volunteers couldn’t have been more diverse, with members of the Collins High School football team working side by side with Girl Scouts, community members, such as insurance businessman Kurt Turner, who was busy routing items, several people from Waddy Christian Church and other individuals, many of whom are “regulars,” who turn out each year to help out, Optimist Club member Lise Sageser said.
“We have invited everyone to come and eat with us, and we had no idea how many to prepare for, as we had over eight hundred children on our Angel Tree list,” she said, laughing. “So we thought we better have enough volunteers.”
Children from Girl Scout Troop 110 were busy sorting toys and making sure children got a toy and just generally welcoming them when they came in.
“I like helping people, and seeing their faces light up when see the gifts,” she said.
Brown said what he enjoyed most was knowing that people were enjoying a good meal.
“That’s what’s important to me, that they are getting enough good food to eat.”
Elizabeth Travis summed it up.
“Christmas is not just about toys and gifts, but making people happy,” she said. “Being able to help other people is the best thing of all; it makes you feel really good.”
“We have such a generous community, and we appreciate everyone’s help very much,” Sageser said. “Especially our young people, they have been so supportive and giving, they set a wonderful example for everyone.”