When one of the faculty members approached me a couple weeks ago about a project his advisory group had undertaken for Thanksgiving, I, admittedly, moved it to the bottom of my priority list. At the risk of sounding dismissive, the students here do a lot of fundraising and charity work, and the stories sometimes get repetitive. When I finally got around to following up on this one thanks to a slow news week in the run up to Christmas break, I was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. My interview with the person at the food pantry the students had worked with was fantastic. She had concrete examples of how the project had affected specific people, and photos to go along with it. That allowed a story that could have been very run-of-the-mill to become much more interesting.
At the Circle of Concern Thanksgiving basket pickup, a family walked through the line to pick up their box of food for the holiday. When they got to the end, they were offered their choice of a turkey or a ham.
“The mom cried,” Circle communications coordinator Juliet Holden said. “The dad was incredulous. You could see it all, right there on his face. Who knew what a difference having an option would make?”
That option was made possible by the combined efforts of several Priory advisory groups, led by Mr. Joe Gleich. The four groups — Mr. Gleich’s, Mr. Jake Wenger’s, Mr. Steve Rolwes’ and Mr. Keith Heerlein’s — raised more than $1200 in order to purchase 40 hams and 25 turkeys to donate to Circle of Concern for Thanksgiving.
“This project started out several years ago at the suggestion of (retired librarian) Karol Smith,” Mr Gleich said. “She and I had done joint advisory projects for a couple of years, adopting families and sponsoring church food, clothing and toy drives. About five years ago, I called up Greg Dierberg (’89, CEO of Dierbergs Markets), and he agreed to help us out in order to reach more people. Since then, Greg has allowed us to purchase hams and turkeys at his cost, and he has arranged for them to be brought to a central location so that they could be picked up.”
Juliet reports that the story she recounted earlier is not unique. The Thanksgiving baskets are an annual program that the organization runs, providing traditional items such as a turkey, fresh vegetables or fruits, cranberries, side dishes, and a pie to underprivileged families. The addition of hams thanks to the Priory students’ fundraising gave them more options to offer larger families who need more food, which was something the organization had never been able to offer before.
“We had a lot of happy families that day,” she said. “They had a choice because of the gifts you guys gave, and that made such a huge difference.”
The advisory groups’ initial goal was $1,000, but they had to raise additional funds when the hams came in heavier than expected. The boys and Mr. Gleich delivered the turkeys and hams to the distribution site on Saturday, Nov. 23. The event served 543 families, totaling 1681 people. In addition to the turkeys and hams, organizers distributed 688 boxes of canned/non-perishable items, 543 pies.
“It was great to have the boys on-site that day,” Juliet said. “Having them there let them see the impact they were helping to make, and added great energy as we were setting up.”
Circle of Concern, which has been serving families in the west county area for more than 40 years, wrapped up their Christmas-specific programming over the last couple weeks with a family adoption program and a toy distribution event. They’re still accepting donations for the end of the year, however, and Juliet reports that 91 cents out of every dollar donated goes to purchasing fresh foods (meat, fruits/vegetables, dairy) that aren’t always a given in food pantry distributions. Tax credits for donations are also available through the state of Missouri. For more information about how to help Circle of Concern this holiday season, you can contact her at 636.861.2623 email@example.com.