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Salvation Army funds Christmas meal for local families

Volunteers went the extra mile by showing up in 31 degree weather to pass out meals, coats and stuffed animals early Thursday morning, December 19. Dedicated volunteers with the Salvation Army and Food Pantry of Gilchrist County began setting up at the Trenton Depot at 7 a.m. in the cold. Soon they had the coffee pot hot, and were ready to provide a complete Christmas Dinner when those in need began arriving at 9 a.m.
Harry Glen and Cathy Browning worked for weeks in advance lining up food for this giveaway which is sponsored by the Salvation Army.
Many have put funds in the red kettles scattered around Gilchrist, Levy, and Dixie counties during the past few weeks. Suzi Wright is the Salvation Army volunteer who scheduled the red kettle volunteers.  Volunteers such as Bob Neilson, who rings the red kettle bell at Hitchcock Market in Trenton, have donated hours of their time to raise money for the Salvation Army. The money raised by the Red Kettle drive was used to purchase the food for the Christmas Dinner giveaway.
Browning, who works year around with the food pantry, picked up all the food for the event, including a turkey for each family and all the side items. A total of 350 meals were organized and given away during the event. Steve Vick the Divisional Director of Service Extension for The Salvation Army from Lutz, Florida, said the he estimated that the 350 meals would feed nearly 1000 people during the Christmas season. Vick also said donations this year were down about 50 percent, and volunteers who work at the kettles have also dropped statewide. The Christmas baskets were given to residents in Gilchrist, Levy and Dixie Counties.
April Akins and the WBLE (Work Based Learning Experience) students from the Gilchrist County School District volunteered at the food giveaway. The students were helping load the food in vehicles and passing out the bags of side dish items. Cathy Browning said, “The students help us every month (at the Food Pantry of Gilchrist giveaway), they are an amazing group.”
Groups of people arrived at 9:00, 10:00, and 11:00 a.m. to pick up their meals, some enjoyed  a cup of coffee and a cookie. A few also picked up a coat, blanket, and a stuffed toy for their child.
Capt. Sheryl Brown of the Gilchrist County Sheriff Office headed up the coat drive again this year. Trimm Auction Services in Trenton, donated over 80 coats which made this year’s coat collection the largest ever. A large stack of blankets were included in the giveaway on Thursday morning.
The Salvation Army’s work wasn’t done for the day because after lunch Patricia Knight, Michael McElroy and Denise Hudson local Salvation Army volunteers spent the afternoon spreading Christmas cheer to residents at Tri-County Nursing Home and Ayers Health and Rehabilitation. On behalf of the Salvation Army Knight, McElroy and Hudson gave away a bag of toiletry items to each of the nursing home residents.
If anyone wishes to make a donation to the area Salvation Army they can see Pat Knight at Drummond Community Bank in Trenton or Denise Hudson at Capital City Bank in Trenton. The Salvation Army helps families in need year around so the funds will be much appreciated.