Guest columnist shares thoughts on Empty Pantry Fund, volunteers
Christmas is all about service to others. Not how much we spend or how much we get, but how much of ourselves we pour out as a love offering to our fellow man. For me, nothing says “Christmas” more than the Empty Pantry Fund.
A dear friend who wants to remain anonymous sent an email this week summing up just what this season means to him. He’s all about giving credit to others and taking none himself because, he says, “There are way too many others who deserve to be noted. First and foremost of those is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who receives all glory and honor for any blessing I receive. I am merely blessed to be a part of this event every year — the Maryville/Alcoa Jaycees Empty Pantry Fund and the Junior Service League’s Toys for Blount County programs.”
My friend said as he reflects on the EPF deliveries each year, he sees recurring themes from past years, including the use of the Tennessee Army National Guard Armory, and the soldiers and staff bending over backward to meet the deadlines for packing and delivery of food baskets and toys. “Sgt. (Michael) Huskey even spent the night there this year to help accommodate our crazy demands,” he wrote. He noted the part played by The Daily Times in giving publicity to help EPF meet its goal each year; Packing and Distribution Chairman Sally Fox and other volunteers who plan the delivery routes; folks who help find big trucks to haul food; Kroger; county and city workers who help unload the food at the armory in preparation for packing; and Junior Service League members, who take care of Toys for Blount County.
He mentioned Boyd Parrott and his team who sort and organize the foods for packing and then clean up afterward; Smith Funeral and Cremation Service and Grandview Cemetery programs in support of EPF.
“Paul Bales, who even though he doesn’t feel good, shows up on Thursday night for encouragement to our packers, and stayed until we finished,” he wrote. “Our monetary donors, who come through year after year. And of course, our volunteers — WOW! Even in the pouring rain this year, they came out in force (for packing and delivery). So as you see, it takes an army to accomplish this thing called the the Empty Pantry Fund and Toys for Blount County.”
He mentioned a specific instance that happened during his delivery route.
“You know, it amazes me, we are all imperfect in so many ways, and as my father always told me — we are just a few bad decisions or some bad luck from needing assistance ourselves. This year, one of the youth helping us deliver said it was awkward when he delivered to a home where he knew someone. I told him — just love that person a little more next time you see them and no matter what, don’t treat them any less, treat them like you would want to be treated. We all have hard times during this life, it is just their time.”
My friend wants to recognize one servant, Lon Fox, president of the EPF Board of Directors. “I don’t know who his helpers were this year, but they worked all day Sunday and then some came back late Sunday night and delivered 23 more bags throughout Blount County. We all started about 6 a.m., but they finished about 9 p.m. That is one long day. ... Note, it is still raining, and Lon like the rest of us was probably exhausted. ... I don’t know who helped, but thank you. This is why I feel honored to serve with Lon Fox as our president of the Empty Pantry Fund. And Lon, thank you for your selfless acts of service each year. We may not get to every one, but we sure do try.”
My friend said a first-time volunteer on a delivery team asked what more he could do. The answer: “I said, prayerfully, consider giving a donation. We are about $15,000 below our goal this year. He was shocked. But I explained to him that we are just like every other charitable organization this year, in that during tough times, we also struggle to meet our goals.
“We lost a week this year because of how Christmas fell on a Tuesday. So I ask you, who will you be a blessing to this Christmas? It is not too late. Yes, we have delivered the routes, but we will continue to keep the donation lines open. Feel free to make a charitable donation to the Empty Pantry Fund and Toys for Blount County. It is never too late to help.”
Donation to EPF may be left at The Daily Times, 307 E. Harper Ave., Maryville, or mailed to Empty Pantry Fund, c/o The Daily Times, P.O. Box 9740, Maryville, TN 37802-9740.
I second my friend’s sentiment as he closed his email: “Thank you one and all — and to all a good CHRISTmas!”
Linda Albert is Sunday Life editor and a staff writer for The Daily Times. Her column runs every Sunday in the Life section. You may contact her at 981-1168 or (email@example.com)