For the 100th straight year, members of First United Methodist Church of Columbus have brought canned goods and monetary donations for the church’s annual White Christmas celebration.
The celebration, which has become a tradition, brings the church together for a Sunday night Christmas nativity pageant and a giving of canned goods and monetary donations at the church altar, said church member Becky Taylor.
The donations become part of the dozens of meals and grocery bags volunteers package and distribute for needy Lowndes County families the week of Christmas.
This year, the church will feed exactly 100 families as a result of White Christmas, but it is only one organization among several that will offer food to the needy at Christmas.
“It’s just our way of keeping some of our hands and feet of Christ’s ministry in our community,” said Taylor, who has helped organize the groceries for the last 20 years or so.
It’s pretty common for ordinary people to remember to donate food, other necessities and gifts around the holidays, more so than around other times of the year, said Major Alan Phillips of the Columbus Salvation Army.
The Salvation Army itself is no stranger to food drives.
It collects canned goods and other non-perishable items throughout the year to distribute to those in need. A team of about 15 volunteers arrived at its Columbus headquarters Monday morning to package 150 boxes of food, including a Christmas ham and other goodies for a holiday meal, to feed elderly and disabled members of the community. Families and individuals who have already signed up to receive the meals will drive to the Salvation Army to pick the boxes up Wednesday afternoon.
“Each family gets a box,” Phillips said.
In addition to the 150 boxes of food, people are donating canned goods, boxes of crackers and other easily-stored food items, more so than throughout the rest of the year, Phillips said. He said there is always a drop in donations after the holiday season.
“We’re getting less food, but the need’s bigger,” he said, indicating that the organization plans to do a large push for food donations after the New Year.
He said he has faith the local community will rally once they realize the need is there.
“I’m pretty sure they will (donate) because this community has been amazing,” he said.
In Starkville, locals will come together to feed Oktibbeha County’s first responders working over the holidays with the “Almost Like Home” meal, organized every year by Starkville resident Lisa McReynolds.
McReynolds began preparing meals for firefighters with the Starkville Fire Department five years ago after her neighbor’s house caught fire close to Thanksgiving. It was the first time her four daughters — the youngest being 6-year-old twins at the time — became aware first responders had to be away from their families during the holidays.
That year, the family decided to take a meal to the firefighters on Christmas Day.
The next year, McReynolds expanded the meal to include first responders at the Starkville Police Department, Mississippi State Police Department, Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office, E-911 and OCH Regional Medical Center — all with the help of other residents who signed up on her Facebook group to help cook, buy or distribute the meals.
“People are so willing to help,” McReynolds said. “The next thing I know (after forming the group), I’ve got people signing up on my Facebook saying, ‘How can I help?'”
Dozens of people, including about 20 “runners” that distribute the food, meet at the old Bulldog Lanes parking lot on Highway 12 every Christmas Day to organize and distribute the food, McReynolds said. Anyone can sign up on her Facebook group, ‘Almost Like Home’ Christmas Dinner, to contribute.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.