With the holidays and winter rapidly approaching, the needs for the community’s lower income families will increase dramatically. One local resource the families have to turn for help is Sharing Life Community Outreach.
According to the North Texas Food Bank, one in four children in North Texas are at risk of going hungry this holiday season. With more than 70 percent of students in Mesquite ISD on free or reduced lunches, the percentage might be even higher in the area.
Sharing Life will distribute 900-1,000 baskets of food to needy families this year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“We will provide for as many as we have come out,” said Jacob Taylor, director of operations. “We also need things like peanut butter. That is one thing we can never have enough of.”
Sharing Life is in need of volunteers to help assemble baskets and distribute. Thanksgiving basket assembly will take place on Saturday, with the baskets being distributed Nov. 17-20. Christmas assembly will take place on Dec. 5, with distribution scheduled for Dec. 8-11.
“Groups will come together and be set up like an assembly line,” Taylor said. “We can always use volunteers during the distribution week to help hand them out.”
To volunteer to help with assembly or distribution, contact Wendy Hardeman at 972-279-6201.
Both food basket distributions are open to anyone who is in the Sharing Life service area and meets their guidelines for their clients.
“They would need to come in with an ID and proof of income and we can get them set up,” Taylor said.
Sharing Life also tends to run low on socks, underwear and coats this time of the year.
“Socks and underwear are one of those things we don’t get a lot of during the year, so that is really useful this time of the year,” Taylor said.
The nonprofit also is in need of items to keep seniors warm such as blankets, gloves, knit hats and space heaters.
“We have a lot of seniors that live alone, and even if they have central air and heat, they don’t want to run it because it’s expensive, so it’s better if they have a small space heater to help them,” Taylor said. “I am no weather man, but they say this year is supposed to be colder than normal.”
In addition to fulfilling the food and clothing needs of low income families, Sharing Life hosts a large Christmas fair each year to allow the families to come and select items as gifts for their children. The fair provides gifts for children ages 12 and younger.
“We get some toys but we never know what is going to come in. A lot of times people donate to smaller kids,” Taylor said. “As the kids get older, some still want the toys and things, but others look for that in-between stuff, so older kid toys are nice for the 10, 11 and 12 year olds. As the age increases the number of toys we tend to get for those ages tend to decrease.”
One of the most popular items requested are bicycles.
“If we had 1,300 kids, and had 800 bicycles, those would all go. That’s one of those items that everyone loves,” Taylor said.
The Sharing Life Christmas Fair is held at Eastridge Park Christian Church.
“They let us come in and take it over. We fill it up with toys. People come in and go ‘shopping,’” Taylor said. “The day of the fair is by far and away the happiest day at Sharing Life. You have to be there and experience it. It’s a hug event where we have tons of volunteers and people.”
Registration for the Christmas fair is underway. There is space to serve approximately 1,300 kids.
“Right now we have got about 800 kids registered. When we hit 1,300, we have to cut it off,” Taylor said. “We don’t have the toys and space to do any more than about 1,300 a year.”
To qualify to take part in the Christmas fair, you must reside in Sharing Life’s service area and have kids, ages 12 and under.
“All of us that do various Christmas programs are on a clearinghouse, so you can’t double dip and do more than one,” Taylor said. “You can’t be registered with another organization or have done it with us last year. We do make exceptions if someone is going through some extraordinary.”