News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 25, 2012

Making spirits bright: Volunteers deliver baskets to needy as part of tradition

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The bright smile on Elizabeth Miller’s face early Christmas Eve spoke volumes.

“I really appreciate it!” she said as four young boys carried half-gallons of milk and a heavy box of holiday cheer into her small Dreiser Square home.

“This will help very much!”

The boys, Ross and Will Eggers and Jacob and Adam Craig, were among a host of volunteers who traipsed around the city early Monday morning taking large food baskets to needy families as part of the Tribune-Star’s annual holiday giving tradition.

Thanks to generous donations from hundreds of people and organizations, the Tribune-Star Christmas Basket Fund surpassed its $23,000 goal, providing enough food for 600 needy families in the community.

“We made our goal,” said a smiling Kim Wilkerson of the Tribune-Star who, with Michelle Poorman, organized the massive Christmas Basket effort.

The two arrived at the newspaper hours before dawn Monday to assign routes to more than 100 volunteer deliverers, manage the unloading of food and milk from large trucks and the re-loading of the food into waiting cars and trucks.

As the first hints of daylight appeared, dozens of ROTC cadets from Terre Haute North Vigo High School worked hard unloading large boxes of food and milk from a B&B Foods truck in the Tribune-Star’s south parking lot. A long line of volunteer drivers slowly drove their vehicles, mostly vans and pickup trucks, through the lot taking on big loads for their routes.

“We just wanted to help and give back to the community,” said Jason Sample of Prairieton who was helping load a friend’s nearly overburdened station wagon to the brim with food and milk in the still-frosty morning. “It’s a good cause.”

Each food basket contained ham, vegetables, dinner rolls, milk, bread and pumpkin pie. To promote literacy, each basket also contained a book for each child in the household.

By 8 a.m., the deliveries began in force.

“We need it real bad,” said Gary Lee Camp, who gratefully stood in his small living room with his wife, Gertha Mae, in their home near South First Street as one of the morning’s first deliveries was made. “It’s wonderful,” added Gertha Mae. “We appreciate it.”

The Christmas Basket Fund is a decades-old Tribune-Star tradition and helps hundreds of needy families each year. This year’s basket fund raised $25,200.23.

In addition to B & B Foods, Boo’s Crossroads Cafe, the Salvation Army, Baesler’s Market and the Wabash Valley Community Foundation all helped in the massive effort this year.

For some Wabash Valley families, delivering the food baskets is an annual tradition that helps keep the holiday season in perspective.

“It’s nice for the boys to do it,” said Kim Eggers, whose sons Ross, 11, and Will, 9, are in their second year of making Christmas Eve deliveries. “They can forget how fortunate they are.”

“It’s fun giving back to our community,” Ross said after making one of his many deliveries. His favorite part of the activity is seeing how happy people are to receive their baskets, he said.

Janie Nihiher, whose startled white cat zoomed through the front door of her small west-side home when the large basket delivery group arrived, said she is on disability and finances have been very tight this year, making her food basket a much-needed blessing.

“It helps a lot,” Nihiher said smiling in her front doorway. “I really appreciate it.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.