Amissville column for Dec. 26

Hearts, hands and food for the needy

More than 30 volunteers converged last Thursday (Dec. 19) at Bethel Baptist Church in Amissville to assemble food baskets for more than 40 area families, and their love for their less fortunate neighbors flowed out the open doors of the church basement and into the warm night.

The volunteers came in all sizes: A platoon of ladies, led by Carol Hackley and Peggy Hitt, wrapped dozens of cardboard boxes with colorful paper while sharing the latest about the grandkids. Members of the local 4-H group, some from as far away as Sperryville, were marshaled in by leader Jennifer Grey to lend their hearts and hands. Other helpers included local church members, at least one attorney and her family, and many who did not give their name but came in, helped for a while and left. Some ladies watched the process seated in chairs placed safely out of the fray, while toddlers darted about dribbling the contents of juice boxes and spilling apple sauce.

Committee member Jan Makela gazed at the mountains of donated food — the culmination of months of planning and weeks of coordinated effort — and characterized this year’s effort as “seamless.”

Weeks before, Rachel Summers of Crow Foot Farm had delivered donation boxes to Amissville businesses with her three children in tow. The Food Lion store in Warrenton donated brown paper grocery sacks, plus $50 toward the purchase of canned hams. Dale Long and his buddies from Amissville Baptist Church piloted grocery carts as donated money was turned into mountains of canned goods and other non-perishable food. Members of the Ruritan club picked up more than 100 bags of donated food and delivered them to the church basement. Local fire department personnel decorated donation boxes and made crucial contributions during the entire process.

Soon, the rows of chairs were placed in the center of the room, and a decorated box was placed on each of the 40 stations. The donated food had been sorted on tables around the perimeter, and each volunteer chose a category — canned fruit, boxes of stuffing mix, Ramen noodles — and began to place one in each decorated box. At the height of the process, it was more New Jersey Turnpike than bucolic Amissville, as volunteers ignored all traffic laws and, when necessary, whirled like dervishes with arms extended from box to box.

Soon, each of the 40 families had a filled box of food, plus a grocery sack with overflow items that was followed by another grocery sack containing perishables such as eggs, bread, cheddar cheese and a bag each of potatoes and onions. Each family also received either a turkey, appropriately sized chicken, or if they are unable to cook, a canned ham. In addition, 60 local shut-ins will receive flowers and a fruit basket.

The flurry ended as quickly as it had begun. As people went home, Jan was joined by a final handful of volunteers to repack the boxes and bags, ensuring that each family would receive both variety and good nutrition. “I just love this part,” she sighed. “This, to me, is such an important part of Christmas each year.”

Last Saturday, members of the Amissville Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department, local churches and more volunteers delivered the boxes, bag, flowers and baskets. The process took all day. Afterwards, more than 300 pounds of excess food donations went to the Rappahannock Food Pantry.

“You know, this really is a big endeavor,” Jan said.