This year marked the eighth annual Christmas Kitchen; a volunteer ran event that ensures those in need throughout the community will have a traditional holiday meal to share with their families. When the event began in 2004, 700 people were fed through generous donations made by businesses and individuals in Upson County. Yet, in less than a decade that number has more than tripled with this year serving over 3,000 people.
“It has been such a blessing that we have continued to grow and to flourish,” said Christmas Kitchen Committee chairwoman Maria Salter. “We have at times had to scrounge to have enough food, but we use every bit that we can to make sure everyone gets something. God has truly blessed us.”
And the blessings don’t stop there. Salter noted that whatever is donated to the cause by a restaurant, the committee also tries to purchase that same amount back so that the business will not suffer a loss because of their willingness to give. While she has helped coordinate donations every year since the Christmas Kitchen began, when speaking with a donor this year, Salter learned something new about the whole process.
“I had one restaurant owner tell me that without us purchasing from them, they would not be able to keep their business open and pay employees throughout the holiday season. It all really does go hand in hand. We couldn’t do it without them and they couldn’t do it without us. Thankfully, there are blessings all around.”
Salter continued saying the only way any of this is possible is through the volunteers who so freely give of their time to help in any way during one of the busiest times of the year for most people.
“It generally takes between 250-300 volunteers to get everything done and we really could not do it without them. They do the cooking, donating and delivering to each of the families. We had over 150 turkeys and hams donated for the event and Mr. Melvin Fallin and his crew at Thomaston Hardware cooked all of those for us. This event would not be possible if it weren’t for the volunteers.”
After giving a heartfelt thanks to all those who help make the Christmas Kitchen a success, she also wanted to thank those on the committee who put so much work into the planning each year: Ruth Hatchett, Betty McLeod, Ralph and Linda Best, Juliette Hightower, Joan McCrary, Melvin Fallin and Ray Crutchfield.
Although there are now over 300 days until the next Christmas Kitchen, Salter stated the committee would be getting together after the first of the year to start working on next year’s event.
“We really start planning in the fall, but each year we meet up afterwards to discuss what went right, what went wrong and what we can do to improve for next year. We want to make it the best we can to help as many people as possible.”