- SYC another success

Volunteer Carol Sartin, left, and Seymour Lions Club member Aubrey Ferreira load items for a Share Your Christmas family at the Seymour United Methodist Church last Wednesday, Dec. 16.

“For most of the club members, it’s a routine. This is our largest service project every year. But for many volunteers in the community, it’s something that they look forward to doing every year. It’s their way of giving back, and we, as a club, sure appreciate it.”

— Bob Crump, chairman, Seymour Share Your Christmas

Despite the state, nation and world being in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic since March, Bob Crump admits he was confident that all needs would be met for this year’s Share Your Christmas (SYC) project in Seymour.

Crump, the longtime chairman of the annual holiday-help program sponsored by the Seymour Lions Club, noted that despite what troubles are occurring on a national level, the Seymour community always makes sure all needs are met for SYC and the families it serves.

“The whole community gets behind this,” said a smiling Crump, chairman of Seymour’s SYC for nearly 25 years.

“We thought that COVID-19 could make things much more difficult this year, but it wasn’t that way. We thought our (donated) money would be down, but it didn’t work out that way. We felt there was a possibility we may have to dig deep to meet all of the needs for Share Your Christmas this year, but everything was up — from the money to the food that was donated.”

This year, SYC helped 20 families residing within the boundaries of the Seymour R-II School District.

Within those families were 89 individuals, including 54 children from birth to age 17.

Above that, the project also provided Christmas gifts to nine residents at Seymour’s Glenwood Healthcare who are without nearby family members.

“We had no rejected applications,” Crump noted.

“Every family that asked for help received it.”

Those who received assistance were the recipients of a near-record amount of food.

Crump said this year’s food drive for non-perishable food items from students in pre-school classes through the fifth grade at the Seymour Elementary School was at 2,325.

A year ago, that total was 1,270 items as 19 local families received help.

“I can’t say why the total was up so much,” Crump said, shrugging his shoulders. “Perhaps it’s just as simple as our people here seeing a potential need.

“It appears that COVID-19 has added to or enhanced the spirit of giving.”

In terms of monetary donations, Crump added that contributions to SYC were up versus last year.

“We’re in good shape in terms of money,” he said. “We just got in a donation today ... the day after we distributed the food and gifts to our families.”

Food baskets, gift baskets and Christmas presents given by family sponsors were distributed to the 20 Seymour families last Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the Seymour United Methodist Church. Assisting in that effort were several members of the Seymour Lions Club, as well as many volunteers.

Prior to distribution, the non-perishable food items were sorted the previous day at the church by club members and volunteers. The process is a lengthy one.

“Until someone actually becomes a part of the process, it can be hard to understand all of the prep work that’s really involved with Share Your Christmas,” Crump said.

“For most of the club members, it’s a routine. This is our largest service project every year. But for many volunteers in the community, it’s something that they look forward to doing every year. It’s their way of giving back, and we, as a club, sure appreciate it.”

Assistance for our families

Every family helped by SYC receives a food basket with fresh items purchased by the Seymour Lions Club through monetary donations.

In the food basket is a frozen whole turkey, one gallon of milk, 10 pounds of potatoes, packages of carrots and celery, two loaves of bread, apples and oranges.

Cost of the basket is about $30 per family.

Families also receive a hygiene basket.

In the hygiene basket is a clothes basket, liquid soap, a bottle of dish-washing soap, a can of Lysol, pine cleaner, a box of facial tissues, package of bathroom tissue (i.e. toilet paper) and paper towels.

Above that, each family receives a share of the donated food from local elementary students. This year’s total was more than 2,300 items. Since 20 families were helped, each family received an average of more than 110 food items.

The final thing given to families are gifts from sponsors.

A sponsor for gifts can be an individual, a group of coworkers or friends, a church, a business, even a club or an organization.

“We have clubs, churches, businesses and individuals that  donate money,” Crump said.

“Our gift sponsors are just as diverse ... actually they are even more diverse. One church sponsored four families. I know of another church that sponsored three (families).

“This year, we had three churches that sponsored our families. We had a group of teachers here at the school who pooled money and sponsored two families.”

When a family is sponsored, the family receives Christmas gifts from their sponsor.

“Sometimes, the family only requests gifts for the kids,” Crump explained. “That can be a pair of jeans, underwear, a pair of shoes, maybe a good coat.

“There are times that the entire family is sponsored as the need is greater. The adults may need the same types of items like a good pair of work pants or even a coat.”

For the past two years, Seymour’s Cub Scout Pack 91 has raised gloves, stocking caps, socks and other needed winter items for SYC.

“All of the items the scouts raise are new items,” Crump said. “It’s a huge help. This year, the amount of items that they raised doubled from the previous year.”

Financial assistance can be as diverse as the donors.

For example, Steph’s Place, a local bakery and restaurant at the southwest corner of the Seymour square, held a cake-decorating contest between city and county police officers.

It raised $140.

All was donated to SYC by the business owner, Stephanie Essary.

Another example is that a pizza party and a $50 donation for classroom supplies annually is given to the elementary class that raises the most non-perishable food items.

Crump noted that one individual is underwriting the total cost of the party and supplies.

“When I say that the whole community gets behind this project, I really mean it,” he said with a smile.

“Since I’ve been involved with Share Your Christmas, and it’s been a long time, it’s always been that way here in Seymour. I have people who will come up to me and hand me money to help. I’ll have others who see me on the street and tell me to come by their business or home to get their donation.”

Student contributions vital

Crump admits he was shocked by the amount of food items that were raised at the local elementary school.

“The food drive started in 1997, so this was the 24th year for it at Seymour’s elementary,” he explained.

“I’ve been involved with (the food drive) since it started, and I’ll have to say that never have I been as shocked by the amount of items as I was this year.”

Last year, 1,270 items were donated.

This year’s total was 2,325.

“What’s shocking is that because of the virus, we weren’t able to come in and kick off the food drive like we’re done every other year,” Crump said.

“We weren’t able to enter the school. We weren’t able to promote like we’ve done in the past.”

Regardless, food donations almost doubled.

Crump credits the building’s two principals, Julie Ervin and Leslie Penner-Davis, for that.

“Despite COVID-19, they promoted it well,” he noted.

“It’s the most food we’ve collected from the elementary school in 10 years.”

Raising the most items was Emily Hensley’s pre-school class with 380.

Next was Brandy Farris’ second-grade class with 345.

In third was Sarena Smith’s kindergarten class, which raised 224 items.

“This may sound odd, but we had very few bad canned items this year,” Crump explained.

What’s a bad canned item?

“Those are the items that people drag out of the back of their shelves and often send to Share Your Christmas, maybe just to get rid of them,” he said. “In past years, we’ll have a case or two of bad items ... we just throw them out.

“This year, we only had five or six bad items. It’s never been that low.”

An enhanced spirit of giving?

“I’d say so,” Crump said. “Circumstances are different this year. People know there are others who are hurting for a variety of reasons, many of them associated with the virus. Maybe people are just more aware.”

SYC started in Seymour in the late 1980s when Billy Smith began the project within the local Lions Club.

Smith was the first chairman, then turned the reins over to Ron Giedd, who was assisted by Crump.

More than two decades ago, Crump took over.

“I enjoy it ... it’s a lot of work, but it’s also very rewarding, both for my family and I,” he said.

The Seymour Lions Club has 29 members.

Most of them take an active role in SYC.

“The community has been great to the club and to this program,” Crump concluded.

“Things are different every year for one reason or another. This year, nearly half of our families, nine of them, were first-time recipients. We had a person this year working for SYC who was a former recipient of assistance. They just wanted to give back.

“But no what the circumstances are, there always are local families who need help during the holidays. That’s what this program is for ... to help them. We see tears. We see smiles. We see oftentimes that what we’re providing is the only Christmas many families will receive. And that’s rewarding for those who work the project and for those who give.”


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