It’s easy to be weighed down these days by economic and political issues that are paralyzing the national government and causing turmoil around the globe. On this Thanksgiving, however, people in Lawrence and Douglas County have ample reason to be thankful for the fact that they live in such an involved and caring community.
There are the 630 donors who gave more than $890,000 in less than eight weeks to make sure the Lawrence Community Shelter could take advantage of a $540,000 challenge grant from the Mabee Foundation. The donations exceeded the $815,000 the homeless shelter needed to claim the grant and pushed the overall fund drive over the $3 million the agency needed to move forward on purchasing and renovating a 25,000-square-foot warehouse on the city’s east side for its new home. Donations, said a shelter board member, ranged from a $5 bill to a $100,000 check and came “from people we don’t even know.”
There are the volunteers who are cooking and serving a Thanksgiving feast to anyone in the community who shows up between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. today at the First Christian Church, 1000 Ky. It takes about 100 volunteers to pull off the annual event, including 40 to 50 people to deliver meals to those who can’t make it to the church.
There is Just Food, the local food pantry whose volunteers hung Christmas decorations in downtown Lawrence last weekend to raise money for their cause. For Thanksgiving, they put together 550 boxed meals, containing about 30 pounds of food each, to distribute to families in need. It’s just part of the 291,000 meals the agency has provided in Douglas County this year.
Many local agencies also are looking forward to Christmas and taking applications for families who can be adopted by individuals and groups who want to make their holiday a little brighter. The youth pastor at Lawrence Wesleyan Church has stepped up to organize a group to take over the Children’s Holiday Shop, which had been sponsored by the Lawrence Arts Center for many years. The shop allows hundreds of local low-income children to pick out gifts for family members. Even though there is no U.S. Marine Corps Reserve unit in Lawrence, Toys for Tots is alive and well and collecting donations here thanks to the efforts of its long-time coordinator, Mary Jones.
These groups and individuals are just a small sampling of those who work in our community every day to make life a little better for all of us. They not only provide for the physical needs of people who lack food or shelter but also reach out for those who face mental health challenges or may be dealing with various losses in their lives: the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a marriage that has ended.
Most of us don’t see much way to have an impact on the difficult situations that face the nation and the world, but everyone who volunteers for a worthy cause or works in a local social service agency knows they can have a real impact on the community in which they live. On this Thanksgiving, we’re grateful for all of their efforts and invite others to join their ranks.