|The Jacksonville Care Channel's food pantry is stocking up in preparation for the hundreds of boxes it will give out on Dec. 21 to needy families who sign up for the program by Dec. 11.|
By SARAH CAMPBELL
Leader staff writer
Families in need that receive food stamps are invited to sign up by Dec. 11 at Jacksonville Care Channel, 201 N. Elm St., for Christmas boxes that will be distributed there on Dec. 21.
Inside the boxes will be a variety of holiday favorites, including chicken or some other poultry, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, biscuit mix, cake mix and frosting.
According to Director Kathy Helmer, several area churches provide items for the boxes, and the charity expects to help 300 families this Christmas.
But the Care Channel helps people all year long, not just during this most giving of seasons.
Helmer, who has been there for nine years and is a retired teacher, said the nonprofit feeds 250-300 families once a month and those numbers have gradually increased each year.
Food for its pantry is purchased from the USDA. Every two months, extra goods — perishables like milk and bread — are provided to those in need.
Recipients must be Jacksonville residents whose in-comes fall within federal poverty guidelines.
The Care Channel also runs a thrift shop that is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The director noted that all of the things for sale are donated and inspected for damage before being placed on the shelves.
Items that aren’t sold in the thrift shop or thrown out are donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Arc. Shoes are sent to an African charity that digs water wells. If not wearable, the materials they’re made of are sold, Helmer said.
The less fortunate are given vouchers for used clothing available from the thrift shop, the director continued, but it is open to the public. And proceeds from sales go toward the nonprofit’s operating expenses.
The Care Channel also, through a grant, can provide one-time help with paying water bills.
People who come there for help are a diverse lot, Helmer noted. She said the community is very mobile, especially because of Little Rock Air Force Base.
Some individuals come every month, while others come once a year, Helmer told The Leader.
What she loves about the Care Channel is helping others and being able to establish a friendly relationship with regulars. The director said, “It’s a place where you can feel spiritually fed.”
Volunteer Ellen Hand added, “It’s a wonderful place to work, for fellowship.”
Helmer recalled one story about a woman who was on disability, working as a substitute teacher when her health allowed. The woman asked for help after being told to leave public housing because she was complaining too much about things like bed bugs.
The woman had several children, and Helmer found temporary housing for her for one week on the condition that she draft a plan for supporting the family.
The woman did that, and saved up money for a rental deposit in that week. She comes to Care Channel once in a while, but is now a friendly working, church-going lady, the director touted. “We want to give them a hand up, not a hand out,” Helmer said.