Christmas food basket in search of funds to fill $20,000 goal

The deadline to raise the goal of $20,000 for the Jennings County Coordinating Council’s Christmas Basket program is Monday, and only a little over half the money has been raised.

However, program coordinator Kitty Shepherd is not worried — yet.

“I just know this community will not let any of our people go hungry on Christmas. They never have in the past and I am sure they won’t this year either,” said Shepherd, who as the Jennings County Coordinating Council director oversees the Christmas Basket program.

The council is designed to work closely with township trustees and other charitable organizations to provide assistance to people in need. The Christmas Basket is only one of many projects overseen by the council. Families wishing to participate in the Christmas Basket project applied and were accepted by late last month.

Since 1977, the coordinating council has sponsored the Christmas Basket project, designed to provide food for families in need at Christmas time. In recent years, the program has been expanded to also provide toys for children.

This year, more than 600 baskets will be given to families and individuals who have signed up and qualified for the program.

While non-perishable food items and toys for the baskets are donated by many local individuals and organizations, cash is needed to supply the perishable food items, toys and other items.

“Our local merchants have been wonderful to provide discounts and donations. Save-A-Lot in North Vernon has given us very generous discounts on hams and turkeys for years, but we still need money to make the program work,” Shepherd said.

She is optimistic that the community will come through with the needed funding based on her nine years of experience with the program.

“It seems there is usually a last-minute solution and, to be honest, we will collect donations after the deadline. I think last year we had checks come in during January and we always accept non-perishable items for the food pantry,” Shepherd said.

This is the last year Shepherd will manage the Christmas Basket project. She will resign from the coordinating council soon after Christmas in order to accept her position as the newly-elected Jennings County Treasurer, which begins Jan. 1. Beth Dewar will assume the position of the coordinating council’s director and will manage next year’s Christmas Basket program.

In addition to cash donations, the coordinating council also can use volunteers to help with the Christmas Basket project, the food pantry, homeless shelter and other community services.

Financial Donations for the Christmas Basket program can be mailed to the Jennings County Coordinating Council at 203 Hoosier St., North Vernon, 47265. For more information, call 812-346-5183.