It is getting down to crunch time for the Community Nurse Christmas Basket program and chairman Scott Barrett has concerns.
“This year seems to be different than every other year,” said Barrett. “Our money donations are down about 50 percent from the last eight years.”
Also down is the rate at which people are signing up to receive the free box of food that provides everything needed to prepare a Christmas meal.
The Community Nurse Association annually provides 350 such boxes, on a first-come-first-serve basis, to Edgar County families. Barrett said that list usually fills within three or four days, but there were still some openings on the list at the time of the Friday, Dec. 6, interview.
He speculated a change in the signup procedure may be causing some confusion about how to request a basket. Any family in Edgar County in need of a Christmas food basket must call the Paris Township office, 463-7215, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Barrett emphasized the last day to ask for a food basket is Wednesday, Dec. 11. No more calls will be accepted after that and the Community Nurse Association will move ahead with whatever number exists at that time.
“I have to have the numbers by the end of the week to get everything purchased the next week that wasn’t donated” said Barrett.
He added the schools in Paris, organizations and businesses annually hold food drives to help supply the baskets but it is still necessary to buy some items that cannot be donated or where some areas may fall short.
The Community Nurse Christmas Basket contains a ham, macaroni and cheese, green beans, corn, carrots, cake mix and icing, potatoes, applesauce, stuffing, two loaves of bread, apples, oranges and a dozen eggs.
Barrett explained the Christmas basket is the community’s oldest Christmas tradition having started a century ago at the end of World War I. The community nurse organization started as part of the war effort and when the war ended, it was noted there were people living in poverty in the community facing the possibility of not having a decent Christmas meal. Left over money from the war effort was channeled into meeting that need.
The Community Nurse Christmas Basket has operated annually since then and Barrett is in his 10th year as chairman. He said the organization stands ready to provide food for those who request it, even if the number is below the maximum 350 the charity can serve.
His bigger worry is a lack of volunteers. It is a two-day event packing and distributing the boxes of food. Volunteers will gather this year Dec. 20 at the Templeton Funeral Home garage to do the first round of packing.
According to Barrett, there are always ample volunteers that day. The second day, Dec. 21, when the final packing occurs and volunteers drive the food to homes in Paris is more uncertain.
“Last year we didn’t have enough volunteers,” said Barrett. “Some drivers were coming back and making multiple trips to get all of the deliveries done.”
Deliveries are made only in Paris. Families outside of the city receiving a food basket must make arrangements to get the basket at the funeral home.
It is not necessary for volunteer drivers to call in advance. Those who want to help simply need to be at the funeral home 8 a.m. Dec 21 and get into the queue. Volunteers load the boxes in the vehicles and the drivers are off to make a delivery.
“I cannot stress we cannot have too many volunteers that second day,” said Barrett. “We need so much help delivering.”
Barrett is puzzled as to why the Christmas baskets are not generating as much interest this year with donors and volunteers.
“It’s like we aren’t visible this year,” said Barrett. “I just want to make sure the word is out.”