Rotarians spread cheer with holiday boxes Haywood County school provides names of families who could benefit by a food box for Christmas, and the clubs have always been able to raise the money needed to fill every request.

Early Thursday morning, 530 boxes filled with food for needy families were lined up in front of the old Belk store off Rus Avenue awaiting delivery. Photo: Vicki Hyatt
Early Thursday morning, 530 boxes filled with food for needy families were lined up in front of the old Belk store off Rus Avenue awaiting delivery. Photo: Vicki Hyatt

More than 60 volunteers began a Christmas delivery effort many said is the highlight of the season.

The occasion was part of a 21-year effort by the Rotary Clubs in Haywood County (North Carolina, US – D 7670) to deliver food boxes to families in need.

The effort was started by Rotarian Tom Knapko, who said his Rotary Club in Fort Myers, Florida, did this, so he asked members of the Waynesville Rotary Club if such a project was needed here.

The answer was yes, so the club collected $2,500 and started with 100 baskets in 1997.

Since then the two other clubs in the county, Sunrise Rotary and Haywood Rotary, have joined in.

This year, club members donated $13,780 to pay for 530 baskets.

The Haywood County school system provides names of families who could benefit by a food box for Christmas, Knapko said, and the clubs have always been able to raise the money needed to fill every request.

“We’ve fed over 7,588 people over 21 years with donations of $167,544,” Knapko said.

“If we come up short, I just send out an email blast, and we get the money.”

One year, Knapko said, an out-of-state resident read about the programme in The Mountaineer and sent in enough money for 15 boxes.

Each food box costs the club $31, a price that is discounted by Ingles.

“Every year, Tom squeezes me a little tighter,” said Jeff Henderson, the manager of the Ingles store off Russ Avenue.

Henderson brings family members and store employees together to pack the boxes so they will be ready when volunteers arrive early in the morning to pick them up.

“It’s been a joy to get to do this,” Henderson said, “and our district manager even comes to help. They look forward to it.”

Each box contains a ham, dinner rolls, pumpkin pie, canned yams, green beans, corn, applesauce, marshmallows and a 3-pound box of apples.

Knapko said the clubs begin collecting for next year’s boxes right after the deliveries are made.

A $31 donation will fill a box of Christmas cheer for families in need.

George Marshall has been helping deliver the boxes for years.

“This is one of my top projects for the whole year,” he said.

“My daughter used to help me, and she still wishes she could be here.”

Source: The Mountaineer

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