When Jeri Goecker’s sister-in-law was out of town and asked Goecker to take her place putting together food baskets at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Goecker thought it was a one-time deal.
That was at least 15 years ago.
Now, Goecker and her husband, Bob, make it a part of their Christmas tradition to volunteer for the project every year, along with several others from the church.
On Dec. 16, around 40 volunteers once again came together at the Seymour church to pack boxes full of food and deliver them to families and individuals in need in the community.
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“Everyone works together. It’s just wonderful to take that food to these people,” Goecker said. “It makes your heart smile.”
The project is organized by Immanuel’s Board of Human Care, which handles requests for assistance the church receives from people during the year.
The Rev. Jimmy Rodriguez leads the board and said the number of families being served has doubled since he first got involved 15 years ago.
“We were doing 25 baskets when I started, and we now deliver 50, mostly in Seymour but a few in Brownstown and other areas in the county,” he said.
The church partners with Human Services Inc. in Jackson County in getting the names of families who could use the food.
“It’s a way we can be a blessing to others,” Rodriguez said. “It’s what we’re called to do.”
Each box was packed with an assortment of food, including a ham, bread, milk, eggs, spaghetti and sauce, soup and crackers and canned goods and other nonperishable food items.
The baskets are packed according to how many are in each family. Also included in the boxes this year were bags of Christmas candy, toys, coloring books and crayons for families with children.
“The biggest family we had this year was two adults and five children,” Rodriguez said.
There was around 1,000 pounds of food used this year, donated by the Immanuel congregation and students and staff at Immanuel Lutheran School. Additional food was purchased with money donated by Thrivent Financial.
“They get a lot of food,” Goecker said. “We took a box to one man and told him who we were and where we were from, and the man looked puzzled, but we told him to have a merry Christmas, and then when he looked in the box, he smiled and said, ‘Now, I’m really going to have a merry Christmas.’”
It’s those moments that make the project so enjoyable, Goecker said.
“That’s what Christmas is all about,” she said.