Tuesday, December 10, 2013

TOP STORY >> Cabot group ready to feed 4,500 in need

Leader staff writers

Cabot Christmas Alliance needs volunteers to help fill 1,000 boxes with food for Christmas — enough to feed 4,500 men, women and children living in the Cabot area. Participants are asked to arrive at 8 a.m. Saturday to the Cabot National Guard armory, 103 Commerce Park Drive.

Last year, the Cabot Christmas Alliance helped 856 families have food for Christmas. So far, 662 families have signed up for assistance this year. But the organization is preparing 1,000 boxes.

“We have been growing by between 100 to 150 families each year,” Cheryl Moore, secretary and treasurer of the Cabot Christmas Alliance said.

Moore said the Cabot Christmas Alliance needs monetary donations instead of food donations right now. The money will help pay for the food and the boxes. Donations are accepted year-round.

Cash donations can be sent to Cabot Christmas Alliance, P.O. Box 821, Cabot, Ark., 72023.

Every school in the Cabot district has been collecting donations of several kinds: toys, food, coats and even shoes.

A food box contains a ham, corn, green beans, macaroni and cheese, instant potatoes, pineapple, cranberry sauce, marshmallow, cake mix, brownie mix, frosting, sugar, a jug of fruit punch and a bag of cereal. Cash donations will help buy the ham and fresh apples and oranges for each box.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring their teenaged children to the Saturday packing event because it’s never too soon to learn the value of giving, Moore said.

Though the cutoff date has passed for families requesting assistance, people who missed the deadline may arrive at the armory after 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21. They need to bring an ID and current utility bill.

Those who did apply to receive food boxes will receive letters in the mail this week with pickup instructions on Dec. 21.

All children in the Cabot School District who are in need were eligible for help from the Cabot Christmas Alliance. “They don’t have to have children, but have to live in the boundaries of the Cabot School District,” Moore said.

Moore is concerned that all the weekend cancellations caused by the bad weather will make volunteers scarce this weekend since many events — Cabot’s Christmas parade included — were rescheduled for Saturday.

She also worries about the loss of revenue caused by scheduling conflicts that kept the school principals from working for tips this year at Larry’s Pizza. For the last two years, they worked as waiters, earning about $5,000 both times. All of that was donated to the Cabot Christmas Alliance.

To make up for the loss, the group sent letters to its supporters asking for more help. Now, in addition to collection points at Fred’s, Dollar General stores and the Pine Street Animal Clinic, donations are accepted Monday through Friday until next Wednesday at Arnett Realty & Investments, 903 B W. Main St.

Christmas for Kids, which provides toys to about 2,000 area children, now works alongside the Cabot Christmas Alliance.

While one arranges food for the holiday, the other distributes toys with the help of churches, civic organizations, families and the school district.

Toys are organized in the evenings Monday through Thursday and distributed Dec. 21 at the same time as the food boxes.

Cash donations to purchase toys may be mailed to Christmas for Kids, 100 Gunsmoke Drive, Austin, Ark., 72007 or dropped off at the Cabot Schools Warehouse at 310 G.P. Murrell Drive in Cabot.

Bill Holden, who supervises the custodial staff for the school district, is the chairman of the board that runs Christmas for Kids and has collected Christmas toys for about 30 years.

Rita Stewart, who works for Holden and also serves on the board, said the volunteer work is very rewarding.

“You get blessed when you do it. And the children, that’s what it’s all about,” Stewart said.

The Cabot Christmas Alliance has helped families with food for Christmas for more than 40 years.

During the late 1960s, food was brought to First Baptist Church, where it was sorted and packed.

Other participating churches would pick up the food boxes and deliver them to the families in need. Participation has grown since then.