YMCA will help needy families
By Gary Popp
Published in News on December 8, 2011 1:46 PM
Anna Whitman of the Family Y sorts through food items collected for needy families at Christmas. YMCA volunteers plan to distribute the food among the families and also take parents shopping with donations from members and local businesses.
Members of the Goldsboro Family YMCA and its employees are working together to provide an unsuspecting group of families with an evening full of Christmas cheer.
Since late October, the family fitness facility has collected food items and gift cards to be divided among nearly 40 families only days before Christmas.
The families will be invited to the YMCA, where they will be paired with volunteers who will take each set of parents or guardians on a shopping spree using the gift cards donated by YMCA members, the public and area businesses.
While the parents and volunteers hit the stores, the children are entertained, fed and watched over at the YMCA.
Following the shopping trips, parents return to the YMCA, and each family is sent home with several bags of groceries from the donated food items collected in the preceding weeks.
"It is such a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved," Lori DuBose, YMCA member services director, said of the food drive and shopping trips. "It is such a wonderful time to focus on and experience the true meaning of Christmas."
The night of giving is the result of two YMCA programs merged about five years ago, Mrs. DuBose said.
The YMCA combined its holiday programs, Help the Hungry and the Y's Men.
Through the Y's Men program, needy families are selected by area agencies, including Wayne County Schools District, Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County, Wayne Uplift and Salvation Army of Goldsboro.
After selecting the families, the area agencies contact the parents or guardians and inform them that they have been chosen for the Christmas program and when they need to meet at the YMCA.
"They don't know how much they are going to receive or what all the program is going to entail," Mrs. DuBose said. "There are a lot of tears. Wonderful tears. Tears of thanks. There is so much gratitude."
Mrs. DuBose, who has been employed at the YMCA for 12 years, said she has always seen parents make sensible choices during the shopping trips.
"Most of the parents really focus on the pure necessities, not frivolous things, and they never buy for themselves," Mrs. DuBose said.
Mrs. DuBose recalled a previous shopping trip when a parent refused to spend the gift card money on a $7 shirt for herself, despite the encouragement of a volunteer, so she put all the money toward her children.
"The parents always shop wisely and selflessly," Mrs. DuBose said. "It is inspiring in itself."
She explained that many of the food items that are handed over to the families are generated through the Help the Hungry program.
The YMCA designed Help the Hungry to motivate its members to continue regular exercise through the holiday season while also generating food items for donations, Mrs. DuBose explained.
This year's program, which began in October, consists of members committing to complete 30 workouts in 10 weeks and to bring in one food item for each workout.
Participates can even turn in pet food, which the YMCA hands over to animal shelters.
"The Help the Hungry program is limited to 300 members, so it makes it something that members look forward to and want to get in on early," Mrs. DuBose said.
For members who meet the criteria, the YMCA organizes a celebration dinner provided by a sponsor and hands out T-shirts for their participation.
Mrs. DuBose said there is so much excitement surrounding the two programs and that community members are so willing to give, that after the families receive their bags of groceries there is usually food left over.
She said that in previous years the YMCA gave the excess food items to the Community Soup Kitchen of Goldsboro and area churches that distribute food.
Mrs. DuBose said the food drive, donation of gift cards and shopping trips are great examples of what the YMCA strives to do.
"It fits so well with the mission of the YMCA and its Christian values," she said. "It feeds the Christian emphasis and what we are here to do, which is helping people."