The memory of a little girl's nose pressed up to the glass door waiting for gifts from Santa and a basket of food is a memory that Shirley Schmitt, of Troy, kept with her since last year. That was when she began volunteering to put together food baskets and delivering them to metro-east families.
Schmitt and her friend, Kathy Nehrt, got excited thank-yous from the family as well as a hand-drawn and colored picture as a thank you for their delivery of the meal and toys.
"I still have it (the picture). It was just so touching," said Schmitt.
"And it's just the right thing to do," Nehrt added.
Schmitt and Nehrt were among the dozens of volunteers working through the 15 churches of Ministries Unlimited that organized a free holiday meal for more than 200 families this year. The volunteers organized the food baskets Tuesday and will also put together donated clothes and toys Wednesday and Thursday. The gifts will be delivered Saturday to the families.
"We've been doing this since 1979 and we started with five families. Now we have over 210," said Betty Cothran. She is the administrator for The Pantry, which organizes food donations through Ministries Unlimited.
Santa will accompany the deliveries to the families if requested. Cothran said they will probably only need about five of the 10 Santas this year.
"They (the Santas) really want to do it and they're disappointed if we don't call them," said Cothran.
The organization raised about $40,000 during November and December this year for hams, turkey, milk and bread to accompany the donated items of canned goods and other nonperishables for the meals. Money and other donated items not used for the Christmas meals will be used to stock the shelves at The Pantry to serve metro-east families during the upcoming year.
The deadline for a family to receive a food basket and Christmas gifts was Dec. 5, but anyone looking to volunteer at The Pantry or with Ministries Unlimited can call Betty Cothran at 618-604-8453. Donations can be made to Ministries Unlimited and sent to 310 Collinsville Road, Troy, IL, 62294.
"I get more out of doing volunteer work than I ever did working for the governement," said volunteer Debbie Vierdag, of Troy. "We feel blessed for what we have. My gosh, look how many people need help each year."