About 1,200 local families received holiday meals Friday as part of the Springfield St. Vincent de Paul Council’s annual Christmas basket donation.
Cardboard boxes lined the tables in the St. Joseph Catholic Church parish hall Friday morning. Each box was filled with the fixings for a Christmas dinner — stuffing, apples, sweet potatoes, onions, cans of fruits and vegetables and boxes of macaroni and cheese.
Before receiving their boxes of food, families were invited to pick out an ornament from a box of glittery bulbs. Volunteers carried the boxes of food outside where families received either a ham or a turkey, along with milk, eggs and butter.
The operation was conducted by a team of volunteers that ranged from preteens to St. Vincent veterans.
“I always ask a group of ladies to come out and help check families in,” said Gladys Schneeberger, who has been volunteering with St. Vincent for more than 20 years. “They always say yes. They are always ready and cooperative and just the best people.”
At least 150 volunteers came to the parish center Thursday night to prepare the boxes, said volunteer Jerry Lawrence — so many that all 1,200 baskets were prepped in less than two hours.
Volunteers came to the church as early as 4:30 a.m. Friday morning to prepare the perishable items and set up final details before the basket distribution began at 9 a.m.
The boxes were paid for primarily by donations from parishes in the council and money raised at the Friends of the Poor Walk in October, Lawrence said. A donation of $100 fed four families. To receive the baskets, families signed up in early December, he said.
“It’s a calling,” said Tony Bicker, a volunteer of 20 years. “It’s not just helping people. It becomes a way of life.”
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