Friday, December 09, 2011

TOP STORY >> Group seeks help to spread cheer

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Christmas Alliance, once able to hand out two weeks worth of food to hundreds of needy families, is scraping the bottom of the barrel to provide just one holiday meal.

Colleen Caldwell of the Cabot Community Coalition told the 11 members who attended the new coalition’s meeting on Wednesday to spread the word that the group is struggling.

Every year since 1990, the group has received a truckload of groceries for its food boxes, but it won’t get that truck this year. The alliance is a combination of churches, schools, businesses and individuals devoted to helping the less fortunate.

But the organization has done well despite the unexpected hardship, said Cheryl Moore, secretary treasurer of the alliance.

The group originally planned to serve 675 families, but that number has grown to 740. Cash donations this year are estimated at $16,000, twice as much as the $8,000 the alliance usually gets. That was added to the $3,000 carryover from what was collected last year, so the alliance has $19,000 to work with.

“God has truly blessed us this year. When people learned we weren’t getting the truck, the money came rolling in,” Moore said.

Call 501-628-2706 to make arrangements to drop off cash or other donations. Monetary contributions can also be mailed to P.O. Box 821, Cabot, Ark., 72023.

Each food box will contain a small ham, corn, green beans, potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, cake mix and frosting, pineapple, marshmallows, a box of Jell-O, apples, oranges and various other foods that were collected.

Those items are subject to change according to supplies and the amount of each item will be determined based on how many people each family has to feed.

Families needing a holiday meal can sign up until Friday. They can also call 628-2706. Moore said, “We try to help everyone who comes in.”

Items for the group’s distribution will be sorted and packed starting at 8 a.m. today. Volunteers will be served lunch at 11 a.m. and Moore expects the work will wrap up around 2 p.m.

Distribution will be held at 8:30 a.m. next Saturday. Volunteers will arrive at the locations — the old Cabot Armory at 103 Commerce Drive off Hwy. 367 in the industrial park, Austin Fire Department and Ward First Baptist Church — at 8 a.m.

The alliance also works in cooperation with Cabot Christmas for Kids, a program that helps students in the Cabot School District get toys so they can have a merry Christmas.

Toys can be dropped off at any school in the district until Friday. They can also be brought to the warehouse at 310 G.P. Murrell Drive in Cabot, Express Printing, the downtown and main location of Community Bank, Fred’s and all Dollar General stores in Cabot and Ward.

To make a monetary donation, send checks to Christmas for Kids, care of Bill Holden, 100 Gunsmoke Drive, Austin, Ark., 72007.

To pick up toys, call Holden at 843-2152 or Rita Stewart at 743-3560.

Those who know of a family in need of food or toys can call Terena Woodruff at 743-3574. For more information, call Randy Holden at 743-6171 or Shelley Montoya at 605-3403.

The program served 1,000 children last year.

The coalition also addressed a few long-term goals at the meeting.

The formation of a food pantry task force was suggested to talk about the vision of having one food pantry serving the whole area and how to accomplish that.

Caldwell asked the group to help compile a list of volunteers willing to help out with physical labor projects, such as building a ramp.

She also informed everyone that the coalition now has a Facebook page they can “like.”

In other business, members announced upcoming events and current concerns.

There has been an upswing in requests for utility assistance. Mary Abshure, a manager at Central Arkansas Development Council, said that her organization’s main program provides home energy assistance in the winter and the summer, but since funds are being cut, it probably won’t be able to help families this summer.

The CADC also offers weatherization of homes to families that have household incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Naomi Bratton, a board member of Hope’s Closet, mentioned the importance of grants and told other members that there will be a $25 grant writing class at downtown Little Rock’s First Baptist Church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. next Saturday.

The Lonoke Exceptional School is “growing a greenhouse” and needs volunteers to help with the building. Volunteers are getting together from 9 a.m. to noon today at the school, 204 Plaza Blvd. in Cabot.

Cabot United Methodist Church will deliver food on Christmas Day starting at 11 a.m. to Lonoke and as far south as Scott. Those who wish to dine in for the church’s holiday meal can come between noon and 2 p.m.

The coalition’s next meeting is at noon on Jan. 13 at The Diner in Cabot.