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November 11, 2013

Light House baskets face uncertainty

Financial pressure threatens to stunt centuries of giving

TERRE HAUTE — A century-old tradition is in danger of going off the rails this holiday season if more money isn’t raised soon.

The Light House Mission has provided Thanksgiving food baskets to needy people in the community since at least 1913.

Earlier this fall, the mission sent a letter to its regular donors stating financial pressure was putting the annual Thanksgiving basket delivery at risk. Without basket deliveries, extra strain was certain at the mission on Thanksgiving day, where up to 500 people are fed each year on the holiday.

That number could double or triple without the annual basket deliveries, the letter stated.

To help, Terre Haute Ministries, a collection of local congregations, stepped forward to raise money for the effort.

On Nov. 1, Terre Haute Ministries conducted, with Midwest Communications and other media, a 12-hour radiothon with a goal of raising $30,000, the amount needed to provide 1,650 Thanksgiving baskets. However, at the end of the event, just $8,000 had been raised, said Bonnie Wallace, director of development for the mission. That’s enough for about 450 families and individuals, she said.

“We were a little disappointed,” Wallace said.

Terre Haute Ministries is not used to coming up short of its goals, said Honnalora Hubbard, executive director. In March of last year, THM played a role in raising close to $50,000 for southern Indiana tornado victims. So the failure of the radiothon to reach even a third of its $30,000 goal was a tough day, she said.

“It was a rough day, but, in hindsight, if we had done nothing, 450 people would have not received a Thanksgiving dinner,” Hubbard said. “We provided 450 Thanksgiving dinners. That can’t be a failure.”

Still, that’s far short of the goal, so Terre Haute Ministries is keeping up the fight. The organization is taking part in a Thanksgiving “sing praise” 3 p.m. Sunday at St. Benedict’s Church with all proceeds going to the baskets, Hubbard said. Donations for the baskets are also still being accepted through Friday at all First Financial Bank branches, she said.

“It’s never to late to try,” Hubbard said. “We have through Nov. 15 to make a difference.”

In addition to the 450 who will receive baskets, about 450 to 500 families and individuals have already been approved to receive them but, without the funding, may not, Wallace said.

“It’s going to a be a hard Thanksgiving for them,” Wallace said of people already approved for baskets but who may not receive one. The average cost per basket is about $18, she said.

Light House Mission is facing tough financial times, Wallace said. The need for donations continues to rise each year while the pool of available donors seems to be shrinking, she said.

“Like all non-profits, we’ve had a tough year,” Wallace said.

The Light House Mission provides shelter and food for homeless people at two locations in Terre Haute year-round. There are currently about 60 residents at the mission at 1450 Wabash Ave. and another 30 people at the Conner’s Center, which provides housing mostly for single mothers and their children.

A cold winter could bring the mission’s resident population up to close to 200, Wallace said.

One group that helped sign up people for Thanksgiving baskets is Families by Choice, a Terre Haute charity that provides transitional housing to needy families and individuals. FBC signed up 33 individuals and families at Garfield Towers, a Terre Haute Housing Authority property, said Muriel Ryan, FBC’s executive director and co-founder.

In light of the financial difficulty facing the basket drive, Ryan said Families By Choice is taking steps to ensure all 33 families they screened will receive a Thanksgiving food basket, Ryan said. Her organization is finding donated poultry, bread and other items, bringing its cost per basket down to less than $7.50 per basket, she said.

Anyone wishing to help Families by Choice pack and deliver 33 baskets can call Ryan at 812-230-4401.

Anyone wishing to help deliver baskets for Light House Mission the Tuesday before Thanksgiving can contact the Light House Mission at 812-232-7001.

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