Food, gifts distributed ahead of the holidays | Feature
Continuing a tradition started decades ago, Thursday was distribution day for the Norfolk Good Neighbors.
Despite the blustery cold wind and light snowfall, boxes of food and gifts made their way through the north door of St. John’s Lutheran Church to the homes of the needy in the Norfolk area.
That year, St. John’s served as one of two distribution points, with the downtown Good Neighbors location as the other.
For years, St. John’s has served as the main distribution point from which the Good Neighbors program delivers its grocery boxes and toy bags to families who have reached out to the organization for help.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the church’s meeting room has served as a pickup point. The spacious north car park offers enough space for any vehicles that may be waiting to collect food and gift boxes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m
This year’s tally included 65 names of individuals or families who received bags of grocery boxes or toys from St. John’s. Another 35 names were served downtown.
The day culminates in a hectic few weeks for volunteers who pack and eventually deliver the goods.
Among the hardest working is Allene Johnson, who coordinates the program and works with volunteers to help put together the food boxes. The food helps offers a good Christmas meal, along with leftovers.
Brian Nissen was one of about 10 Church volunteers who helped Thursday. This was the second year in a row that he had volunteered.
Nissen said this year’s cold weather was a sharp contrast to last year’s distribution day.
“Last year there were tornadoes,” he said.
Dennis Braesch, another volunteer, said he’s been helping for about 10 to 15 years. Braesch said it has become easier to help since the food boxes and gifts are now being picked up by people instead of being delivered.
Braesch’s wife Lois was also helpful. The volunteers had a variety of treats to fill the gap between arriving vehicles, as several women brought biscuits and coffee, as well as chili, which would be enjoyed later in the day.
The St. John’s group had a science in mind. A volunteer went out to greet the vehicle and learned the name of the person seeking help. She or someone else had come to the Good Neighbors office earlier and registered them so they knew how much food to get or what gifts would be appropriate.
Then other volunteers carried out the bags with the items. The person who greeted those arriving then recorded what was going out to the vehicles.
And while these volunteers were kept busy during a stretch while being visited by a reporter, it was evident that they enjoyed each other’s company, including the feeling of knowing they are helping those who are less fortunate this holiday season.
And like many of the volunteers who help out at Good Neighbors year-round, the help is year-round. This includes things like emergency help with rent or ancillary costs.
Each situation can be considered individually to a certain extent, but assistance with one bill is limited to once a year. It is designed to help people get back on their feet.
The Norfolk Community Food Pantry is a joint ministry of churches in the Norfolk area. The local Food Chamber opened its doors in 1989 as a relief organization for people in need of food in emergencies. However, the Good Neighbors took over these operations in late 2011 when the ILI Food Bank closed its doors. It is staffed entirely by volunteers from at least 17 local churches.
The Daily News continues its sponsorship of the Holiday Fund campaign by providing updates on donations and stories about the campaign.