VOL. 111 | NO. 231 | Thursday, December 11, 1997
By LAURIE JOHNSON
Neighborhood center to distribute 12,000 Christmas baskets
By LAURIE JOHNSON
The Daily News
In keeping with the Christmas spirit of giving, a Memphis neighborhood mission group will distribute 12,000 Christmas gift baskets to needy families it regularly serves.
To do this, the Neighborhood Christian Center needs some Santas helpers to assemble and distribute the baskets, as well as additional funds to help defray costs.
"We need volunteers to help us prepare the boxes, pack the contents and present the baskets," said JoeAnn Ballard, executive director of the NCC.
The organization also needs about $25,000 in donations to cover the remainder of the $105,000 cost of the gift baskets. About $80,000 has been raised so far.
The NCC is a Memphis-based service organization whose mission is to provide compassionate, Christ-centered ministry to address the practical and spiritual needs of the citys poor and to help them become self-supporting.
Working with area churches, the NCC provides a number of services and programs throughout the year through its 10 primary branches and more than 60 satellite centers in Shelby, Tipton and Fayette counties, serving more than 125,000 needy families each year.
Ballard said the NCC considered the Christmas gift basket program a year-end celebration to reward its regular clients for their hard work.
"Its our end-of-the-year highlight," she said. "We do so much with our clients throughout the year, helping them learn how to help themselves.
"The Christmas basket is a little gift from us to say, We know you are trying, we know youre still struggling, but were behind you."
Ballard said the baskets are not a handout.
"A handout is just giving somebody something," she said. "We are giving them something, but these are people we work with on a daily basis, and we also are celebrating the culmination of a years work and their progress."
Ballard said about 55 small neighborhood churches the NCC regularly works with also recommended recipients.
"They know these people, they have ministered to them, dealt with them over the years, so they will make suggestions about who needs these baskets," she said.
Ralph Braden, senior vice president of Prudential Securities, who has volunteered with the annual event for the past five years, said the program serves the community in several ways.
"Theres about 35 pounds of food in each basket, so it provides approximately 12,000 low-income families in the Memphis metropolitan area with enough food for about three or four days."
The contents of each basket include staples and holiday treats, which are either donated free of charge or at a significantly reduced cost, include five-pound bags of flour and corn meal, a two-pound bag of sugar, canned goods, a whole chicken, cake mix and frosting, cooking oil, rice, doughnuts and Moon Pies.
Companies donating goods or services include Weyerhaeuser, Interstate Brands Corp., Security Capital, Osceola Foods, Riceland Foods, Charms of Covington and the Chattanooga Baking Co. The Memphis Food Bank also sold items to the NCC at discounted prices.
The event also brings people together from all parts of the community for a common purpose, said Larry Jensen, president of Commercial Tennessee, who has worked with the event for the past eight years.
"We have from 400 to 500 volunteers that come together each year to do this," he said. "Theyre from East Memphis, South Memphis or wherever, and they all roll their sleeves up to help those who are less fortunate."
This will be the 10th year the NCC has sponsored the gift basket program which has grown from about 25 baskets in the first year.
"We really havent made a big deal about it. Weve just sort of quietly done what we thought we should do, and people have joined the team as weve gone along," Jensen said.
Baskets will be assembled Saturday at 3682 Contract Drive. Baskets will be delivered Dec. 20.
This year, the NCC needs an additional 150 volunteers to make personal home deliveries to the disabled.
Those who wish to make a financial contribution may send a check to the NCC at 223 Scott St., Memphis, TN 38112.
For more information, contact the Neighborhood Christian Center at 452-6701.