Their family had fallen on hard times, and usually, the kids stopped over for snacks or even stayed for a meal.
Finally, on Christmas Day, the children stopped over. The youngest child said she had received “the best gift.”
“Her mother had cooked a meal for the family, and they’d had food in the house for an entire week,” Russ Robinson said.
Robinson told the story he had heard from a school counselor Saturday while packing boxes of food for the Williamsport Christmas Family project at the Williamsport Moose Lodge. He was especially moved because, as a member of the Moose, he had been a part of the effort to provide food to the girl’s family five years ago.
“That just spurned a massive, ‘We want to do more,’” he said.
As unemployment rose, the lodge received increasing numbers of letters expressing need and requesting donations, Robinson said. The group responded by patterning a project after similar efforts in surrounding communities.
“We wanted to start one in our own small community,” he said.
The group contacted local schools — Hickory Elementary, Williamsport Elementary, Springfield Middle and Williamsport High — requesting names of families who could use and would accept assistance. That first year, the Moose provided food for four families.
This year, they packed up food to feed 25 families. The packages — which included cereal, spaghetti, soup, a ham, a turkey and more — should last two weeks to a month depending on family size, Robinson said.
“We tried to provide the basic things families with kids go through with enough to stretch,” he said. “You can cook a turkey, then make soups, pastas, salads.”
Members of the Moose purchased about $3,000 worth of food for the project, some of which was specially priced for volume by local stores. The lodge raised approximately $1,800 through fundraising. The Women of the Moose Chapter 2116 and area businesses and organizations provided additional funding.
“The lodge itself doesn’t write one cent toward the cost,” Robinson said. “Everything is donated or fundraised.”
Dalton Showe, 8, of Hagerstown, was among roughly 20 volunteers who packaged food Saturday while Christmas music played.
“I think it will make people feel happy, and it makes me feel good that I helped out,” he said.
Amber Ahalt, 14, of Hagerstown, said she likes “helping in the community.”
“It’s pretty fun,” she said. “I think the families appreciate that someone thinks about them and cares for them.”
Amber’s mother, Samantha Mace, 45, of Hagerstown, said she remembered a time when others did the same for her family.
“(Amber) was 11 when her daddy left. I didn’t think we were gonna have any Christmas. I though maybe one gift, and I was happy with one gift,” she said. “But friends from work filled my entire trunk. It all comes back around.”
Robinson said volunteers would use three vehicles to drop off food to the 25 area families today.