The distribution event, in its second year at PSU’s Student Recreation Center/Kansas National Guard Armory, will essentially transform the gymnasium in the armory into a shopping center for families who have turned to the Salvation Army and Wesley House for some extra help to get through the holiday. This is the fifth year the two organizations have paired up to offer such a large distribution.
Ellie Foster, pastor and executive director of Wesley House (an outreach ministry of First United Methodist Church that serves low-income families in Crawford County), said about 780 families are signed up to come by the two-day event, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. next Thursday and Friday, Dec. 15 and 16.
“We give them a huge box of food, and if they have children they can choose gifts for them,” Foster said. “Lots of times parents come in very hesitant, especially if it’s their first visit and they don’t know what to expect. But when they leave they have huge smiles on their faces. It’s absolutely fantastic.”
The event does involve a few PSU students as volunteers, but is mostly operated by volunteers from the two organizations. Dr. Peggy Snyder, dean of Continuing and Graduate Studies, is chairperson of the Salvation Army Advisory Board and has been involved in the distribution for years. Before being held at PSU, it was held at the former armory in town.
“It’s important to remember that this event is possible because of the generosity of the people of Pittsburg and our county,” Snyder said. “The donation of money, food, toys, as well as time, allows us to be able to help all of these families in our community.”
Foster said that with many people struggling to make ends meet, she has seen an increase of about 175 families asking for help this year. The reasons, she explained, are multiple.
“Households are getting larger because people are out of work and moving in together to make ends meet,” she said. “Jobs are scarce and gas prices are through the roof. A lot of families asking for help have had some sort of a crisis - someone got sick and now they have a big medical bill or maybe their car broke down. Something unexpected has pushed them over the edge.”
The really moving cases, she said, are the families who helped donate in the past - and who are now in need of help themselves.
“Those are the ones who break my heart, because they’re embarrassed about their situation and they want to know how they can repay us,” Foster said. “I just tell them ‘When you get on your feet, help someone else again.’”
Although the distribution is a week away, semis full of food are already being delivered. On Thursday, the Kansas Food Bank of Wichita delivered about $20,000 worth of food to the Student Recreation Center. Although Wesley House is finished collecting food donations, toy donations can be brought to the Salvation Army or to the Student Recreation Center through next Wednesday. Monetary donations are also accepted at both organizations.
“It’s a massive undertaking to put this together,” said Foster, acknowledging there has been a dip in donations this year but that she hopes the community will still step up their support. “But it’s phenomenal to behold.”
For information, contact Wesley House at 620-232-3760 or the Salvation Army at 620-231-0415.
©2011 Pittsburg State University