By Dan Domsic and Robert Herrington
This holiday season one charitable group is embarking on a herculean task: helping more than 18,000 Hamilton County families in need have a holiday experience.
Nancy Chance, executive director of Good Samaritan, started assisting families with their holiday needs in 1980. She said in that first year that 397 families were helped – the number of those participating in Good Samaritan’s programs this year is close to 20,000. All county food pantries are seeing record numbers this year, said Chance, adding that the numbers of local students on lunch assistance programs are also rising.
“There’s been a huge increase in free and reduced lunches in the county,” she said.
Chance the assistance is now being sought by middle class families that are struggling with mortgages, utility payments, gas prices and food bills.
“We’ve had a 20 percent increase in the middle class going to pantries this year,” she said. “Many are visiting for the first time and it’s not something they wanted to do.”
Unfortunately, projections are not encouraging for next year.
“In 2013, we are expecting another 20 percent increase,” said Chance. “We’ve not seen any let up at all since 2008.”
In the past, the Thanksgiving dinner events cost the nonprofit between $10,000 and $12,000. Because the event is expanding to Sheridan, Chance believes the bill is going to look like $16,000. That’s just Thanksgiving dinner, which is also delivered by sponsor families to those who can’t get out of the house.
Good Samaritan will continue helping people through Dec. 24, and sometimes even on Christmas day.
Chance said no one gets turned away.
To pull it off, 3,000 volunteers will have donated their time by the end of the year, with 2,000 working on Christmas distribution alone. There’s some overlap between the numbers, Chance admits, but she said that’s how many physical bodies are needed to make it happen.
“If it wasn’t for the good people in the community and donors, we wouldn’t be able to make it happen,” she said. “We struggle every day to meet the needs.”
Visit gsnlive.org to sign up to volunteer or make donations.