The Christmas meal program is the biggest project the club does. And the most rewarding.
Each year members of the Sunrise Rotary Club provide boxed meals at Christmas to dozens of families and people who might not get such a meal. The program began 20 years ago when the club was started, and has grown every year.
This year the club provided 177 boxed meals, and club president Billy Seagle could not be more pleased.
“This is the true spirit of Christmas,” he said.
The boxes are put together on Wednesday night before Christmas and distributed the next morning. Members come up with families they know are in need.
This year Food City helped the cause with a $1,000 donation. The club provides the rest through member contributions and fundraisers. This year the club will spend some $8,000 to stock the food boxes.
Each Christmas meal box includes a turkey and ham, stuffing mix, bread, canned vegetables, sugar, flour, peanut butter, corn flakes, coffee, eggs, milk and fresh fruit.
That’s not all. A local benefactor who wants to remain anonymous buys teddy bears to be given to every child whose family gets a food box.
“She’s been doing it for 20 years, and those teddy bears are such a big hit,” Seagle said.
This year Seagle learned of two children who had asked for a bicycle. The kids, ages 9 and 11, never had owned one. Club member Connie Holt, who’s also the General Sessions court clerk, purchased the bikes, and they were delivered earlier in the week — just in time for Christmas.
“The mother cried when she got them,” Seagle said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Seagle and club officer Randy Parton chair the project. Barry Mitchell handles distribution, and that’s maybe the toughest task of all.
On Wednesday night in the storeroom of the Sevierville Food City, Rotarians, helped by members of the Boys & Girls Club, place each item in the 177 boxes. Mitchell directs all this as he has for several years, making sure each box gets exactly what it is supposed to hold.
“It’s chaotic fun,” Seagle said.
CROSS Ministries in Seymour receives 40 boxes. Fort Sanders Sevier Senior Center gets 35, to be given to the elderly who are homebound. The rest go to people identified by club members as needing the assistance — perhaps fellow church members or community residents they know.
“It’s the best project we do,” Seagle said.
The Sevierville Sunrise Rotary Club meets Thursdays at 7:30 a.m. at Courthouse Donuts. Visitors are welcome.