An economy struggling to regain momentum after years of heightened unemployment has created a year-round need seen by local nonprofits and outreach organizations. Helping fill the void during the holiday season, Bartow County residents and corporate sponsors are stepping forward.
Beginning Saturday, the seasonal events will feed, clothe and aid families in need. The Toyo Community Christmas Luncheon expects to feed some 3,000 people this year during the Dec. 17 meal. In its third year, the Christmas Luncheon has seen increased response each year feeding about 1,500 people the first year and 2,800 last year.
"It does reflect the need. The need has increased from year to year for the last three years. Just in working with food pantries in the area around Thanksgiving time, they all said the need has increased dramatically year over year. So, the need is definitely greater this year than in the past," said Tina Jennings, event organizer. "It is important for people to have a great Christmas meal and be able to fellowship with each other and to share the season."
Serving meals of turkey, ham, potatoes and homemade desserts, the Toyo Christmas Community Luncheon will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cartersville Civic Center, 435 W. Main St. Churches and organizations wanting to deliver meals to shut-ins and homebound individuals may call Jennings at 678-899-9525 to reserve plates to be picked up between 10:30 and 11 a.m.
"It's funded by Toyo Tire and the generosity of some other individuals in the community. Danny Gurley of Flavorful Events is doing the catering," Jennings said. "It came about because Toyo always provided a holiday meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas for their employees. ... They decided they would take the money from the Christmas employee luncheon and give it to the community for a community Christmas lunch."
Bartow Transit will provide transport to the luncheon with 24-hour advanced notice.
Adairsville Community Christmas
On the county's north end, Adairsville residents will gather on the day before Christmas to help their neighbors.
Adairsville Community Christmas also is in its third year and has seen its share of growth as well.
"This is our third year doing the Community Christmas for the needy in Adairsville and it has grown. The first year, we fed meals and provided toys, toiletries and gift bags to about 50," said Beth Parker, event organizer. "Last year, it was just unbelievably huge. We fed buffet meals to 92 families and we had Santa, we had families from at least six different churches that came to serve from Rome, to Cartersville, to Calhoun."
As the need has increased, the outreach has struggled to secure funding for desired service and therefore will not be able to provide a full meal at this year's Community Christmas. Instead, Parker asks those interested in donating to bring any items that could help someone else, including food to be served at the Christmas Eve event from 10 a.m. to noon at the former Dollarsville storefront, 9 Legacy Way, Suite D, in Adairsville.
"This year, we couldn't really find any means to provide a meal so we're going to turn it into breakfast and finger foods," Parker said. "We've had just about everything donated, we've had blankets, curtains. ... Baked goods and finger foods would be great.
"We do household goods, toys -- they don't have to be new -- toiletries. Anything they feel would make someone else feel good."
Parker urges residents that are able, to come out and volunteer or donate items others might enjoy. The event, she emphasizes, is about service to others -- for that reason, the Adairsville Community Christmas is not affiliated with any organization.
"It's not affiliated with any church or anything. We wanted to keep it just very service minded so everybody can feel free to serve," Parker said. "This time of year, we just try to teach our kids how to give -- especially before they receive at Christmas."
Donations will be accepted at the former Dollarsville storefront the week before Christmas from Dec. 19 to 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. each day. Cartersville donations may be made at Melissa and Co. Salon, 1243 Joe Frank Harris Parkway in Cartersville.