HAMMOND — Eighty families in the Hammond area with limited resources received a box full of extra food items to enjoy over the Christmas holidays thanks to the Hammond Kiwanis Club and the generosity of many of the city’s residents.
The club’s food drive, conducted Dec. 19, brought in large amounts of canned vegetables and fruit, rice, dried beans, pasta dishes, cereal and other foodstuffs for the annual effort to assist families during the holidays when children do not have access to school-provided meals.
The club follows a successful formula launched about 10 years ago. A week before the food drive begins, Kiwanis members, assisted by Key Club members from St. Thomas Aquinas High School, place notices of the coming food drive in mailboxes of residents in selected subdivisions. The notes ask that food donations be left at doorsteps for pickup on Saturday.
“By inviting residents in advance to donate food to our drive, we don’t have to disturb anyone by ringing doorbells on an early Saturday morning,” Kiwanis Club President Ed Gautier said. “The response has been great, and we have been able to collect a great deal of food to be given to others.”
Teams drove through the subdivisions starting at 9 a.m. Boxes and bags of food soon began to pour into a central location, where the volunteers sorted the food and filled the boxes. Sorters tried to evenly distribute the commodities so all recipients received a variety of items.
The Hammond Kiwanis Club buys a chicken and loaf of bread to accompany each box of food.
Priority for distribution of the boxes begins with club members who may know of a needy family. After the members designate the boxes they need, the remainder are brought to the local office of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana. The United Way coordinates with a family services agency to see that families that have requested Christmas boxes receive them.
The Kiwanis Club also donates food boxes to Serenity House, a homeless shelter in Ponchatoula, and to foreign students at Southeastern Louisiana University. Those students have a special need for food during the holidays, when food outlets on campus are closed.
This year, about 40 Kiwanis and Key Club members and volunteers participated in the food drive. Volunteers ranged in age from a 7-year-old to senior Kiwanis members in their 70s and 80s.
“This is one of the really great things our club does every year. It’s a special Kiwanis family day. … Everyone enjoys working the drive,” Gautier said. “It’s always a treat to see the huge amounts of food that are gathered. The generosity of the residents of Hammond is very special.
“Many residents feel a need to give to others less fortunate at Christmas, and our food drive is one easy way they can do that. Of course, recipients of the food boxes are most grateful for the gift of extra food. Helping others in any way we can is what being a Kiwanian is all about.”