Saturday, December 22, 2007

TOP STORY >>Many helping those who are less fortunate

Leader staff writer

Christmas brings out 12-year-old Sydney Hickok’s generosity.

When she visited the Cabot animal shelter for the first time a few years ago, she listened when workers told her they needed blankets and food to help the animals. She started donating her allowance to the shelter. Then her giving spirit turned to other worthy causes.

She began buying toys for children and giving them to Cabot’s Christmas for Kids, and now does it every year, said Sydney’s grandmother, Nancy Siebert.

“She’s very fortunate and she doesn’t do without. We try to instill in her to try to give back,” Siebert said.
“She understands helping the less fortunate,” she added.

Her grandmother said that for Sydney, Christmas means it’s time to buy toys to give to Christmas for Kids. This year she gave about $50 worth of toys.

Christmas for Kids organizer Bill Holden was busy Friday preparing for today’s distribution at First Baptist Church. He said there would be toys to give to about 400 families.

“This has been a real good year,” he said. The fire department gave $15,257 to buy new toys, Cabot businesses also gave and children were asked to donate toys through their schools.

Holden is director of custodial services for the Cabot schools. He has been organizing the toy drive for 31 years.

Other Cabot residents working out of First Baptist Church have worked to make sure no one has to be hungry either during the holiday. Cabot Christmas Alliance president Ed Caldwell has helped the needy for more than 30 Christmases.

“It’s better this year than we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve had a fantastic year.”

Caldwell said the food drive will feed more than 500 families. They will be picking up their holiday fare at the Family Life Center of the First Baptist Church.

Families will be given frozen hens, cake mixes, fruit and other items to cook their own meals.

Ward residents are asked to pick up donated food from First Baptist Church and Austin residents from Austin Station Baptist Church.

In Jacksonville, Fishnet Missions has seen more people needing help this Christmas than in past years.

Fishnet Director Dewey Sims said people are hurting from high gas and food prices.

Nearby businesses help the mission to feed its clientele. Big Lots, Kroger, Starbucks and Daylight Donuts donate food to Fishnet.

The mission has given away 3,500 bags of food the past two weeks. On Friday, 15,000 pounds of produce was given away.
“Any one day, that’s a lot of food,” Sims said. “The economy is not as flushed as everybody thinks. Milk is up. Gas is up,” he said.

Santa Claus visited the mission Friday and children were each given three toys to take home.

The Jacksonville Care Channel gave away $5,000 worth of food Wednesday to 425 families needing Christmas meals.
Peggy Ness, who runs the Care Channel, said she thought the charity served about the same number of families last year at this time.

Wednesday, they took home macaroni and cheese, poultry, rice, soup, potatoes and other items for their Christmas meals this year.

Donations from Jacksonville churches and sales from the charity’s thrift store helped buy the meals. Ness said 638 Jacksonville children were given toys as well.