December 23, 2016

Christmas Angels feed more than 1,000 local families in Louisville and Southern Indiana

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LOUISVILLE, KY - Hours before the sun came up Friday, dozens of volunteers were busy packing more than 1,000 holiday meals for people in Louisville and Southern Indiana who may need them.

The Service for Peace Christmas Angel program, in its 12th year, provided the fixings for a special holiday meal — a turkey, stuffing, cornbread, cake, cranberry salad and mixed vegetables — for 1,110 area families. And it's only grown.

“We saw a need in the community around Christmas time,” Peter Hayes, Louisville and U.S. National Director for Service for Peace, said. The first year, they were able to feed 25 to 50 families. The goal for 2017 is 1,500.

The $30,000 funding for the meals was made possible through a partnership with Fourth Street Live! and the United Auto Workers/Ford Local 862.

About half of the meals donated go toward military families in Southern Indiana and Kentucky. Eight years ago Service for Peace Christmas Angel program started working with the Indiana and Kentucky Army National Guards.

“It's really wonderful — the help to military families makes all of us feel wonderful,” Hayes said. His grandfather was a World War II veteran and his father fought in Vietnam. “If anybody needs help in our country, we feel like our veterans and their families are very deserving.”

The 152 Cavalry Indiana Army National Guard brought 100 meals back to soldiers involved with the New Albany location. Around a dozen of the soldiers also volunteered to help get the boxes ready.

First Sgt. Zachery Hackett said it's important to do their part and show their appreciation for the organizations that help them.

“They gave us a lot of those meals for our soldiers who may or may not be down on their luck this holiday season,” he said. “We like being involved with the surrounding communities and helping out those who help us out.”

He said gifts like the Christmas dinners can go a long way to showing them that people haven't forgotten their service.

“They're the people who sign a contract to defend this country,” he said. “It's really nice for a community to pitch in and show people that everybody still cares and they appreciate what you've done for the country.

“Our soldiers are always grateful any time anybody does something for them, shows appreciation.”

Sarah Keeney, who works at one of the restaurants in Fourth Street Live! isn't a veteran herself, but has family members who are. She donates her time at Ft. Knox whenever she can.

“[Veterans] kind of get the short end of the stick sometimes,” she said. “So I just like to make sure they get what they need.”

This is even more important around the holidays, Keeney said.

“This is a time for everybody to be happy and be with their family,” she said. “I just want everybody to have a good Christmas.

“Everybody should take a little time out of their schedule to volunteer this holiday season.”

Ed Hartless, president of Fourth Street Live!, said he appreciated the opportunity to give back this way. This is the second year for Fourth Street Live! to be involved in the program.

“It's been a collaboration,” Hartless said. “UAW/Ford asked if we would participate again and we said 'Absolutely.'

“I think Louisville kind of prides [itself] on being a compassionate city and I think this is just our way of contributing to that.”

Todd Dunn, UAW/Ford Local 862 and Greater Louisville Central Labor Council president, said the partnering organizations have been in the planning stages for about six months.

“It's really unique putting it together,” he said. “People start volunteering about two months out, wanting to know when they can help.”

He said he appreciates the partnerships with the other organizations just trying to make life better for some folks in need in the community. This is the UAW's fifth year involved with making the meal boxes and he hopes to see it keep growing.

“Every year we always put another log on the woodpile,” he said. “We've been trying to help out as much as possible.”

 (Staff photo by Josh Hicks)