Annual fund spreads food, Christmas cheer to local families in need

The woman excitedly waved her arms in the hopes that she would get the attention of a driver delivering Christmas meals to needy families in her neighborhood.

Ann Sager wasn’t on the list of recipients for The Good Cheer Fund, which was sponsoring the delivery of 240 ham dinners and a basket of food that would feed a family for days throughout the Greenwood area Saturday.

But the resident of Center Grove Estates, a mobile home park near County Line Road, saw people delivering meals and could think only of her Thanksgiving Day, when she split a pork chop with her dog and had nothing else to eat.

Sager was in tears when Bob Farris, the training officer for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, wheeled his SUV around to her driveway. Farris and his wife Jackie presented a box full of food to Sager. He had an extra box because the occupants of another home on his assigned route appeared to have moved out. So Farris made an executive decision that Sager should get a Christmas meal as well.

“We have had a really rough time and just don’t have much to eat. I am so embarrassed to be out here begging for food,” Sager said as she received reassurances from the Farrises that it was no trouble for them to include her in the distribution.

Her son had just recently moved into her mobile home park along with his dog, but nobody at the residence has a job. Sager has been battling leukemia for the past two years, although she was recently declared by doctors to be in a state of remission, she said.

Bob and Jackie Farris have been delivering the food parcels for several years. The group now makes a day of it, enlisting the support from a handful of friends who split their route into three sections of 10 homes each. Most of their deliveries Saturday were in Center Grove Estates.

The Farrises were just part of an effort by the Fraternal Order of Police to deliver 240 food baskets Saturday morning. That is just one part of the Good Cheer Fund effort taking food to several hundred homes throughout the county. Meals will be delivered in the Edinburgh area early this week and in Franklin on Christmas Eve.

Doug Roller is the Greenwood police officer organizing his community’s part of the delivery. Non-perishable food was delivered to Our Lady of Greenwood Catholic School on Friday morning and about 20 volunteers sorted it into individual boxes for the delivery. Saturday morning, perishable items were delivered to the school, which is used as a staging area, and the content of the boxes was finalized by volunteers.

Each box included ham, eggs, bread, milk, potatoes, noodles, cookies and a number of other canned and boxed food items. Police officers, many of whom had been volunteering at the Shop With A Cop program across town at Meijer, began pulling up to get their delivery routes from Roller, who takes alphabetized lists from the Good Cheer Fund and organizes them by geography.

Roller has been involved with the effort for more than 20 years and said that while the location of the recipients used to be somewhat predictable, that is no longer the case.

“I know before I would see an address and think ‘That neighborhood?’ But especially since 2008, I don’t assume anything. I know we had a home in the Stones Crossing area a couple of years ago and we thought it was a mistake, but when the people got there they learned that both of the couple had lost their jobs and when they opened the cupboards to put the food in, it was almost totally empty,” he said.

Roller called the effort a community endeavor, noting that those helping include everyone donating money to the fund, families of county school children who donate canned goods, the church school for providing a place and all the officers who help deliver food on their day off.

As Bob and Jackie Farris continued their trek through Center Grove Estates, a common theme from mobile homes they were visiting were small children who would be getting a better Christmas meal than they would have otherwise.

Cassie Butler said she has been unable to get to the grocery store due to not having any transportation.

“It’s so nice that people do this for those of us who need help. My two children will have a much better meal now,” she said.

Tammy Elder offered Jackie Farris thanks as she accepted a box of food. Two of the six grandchildren Elder said live with her cheered as they began pulling items from the box.

Mike Harwehe was laid off Friday and was surprised to see the package being delivered Saturday morning. He has temporary custody of two grandchildren and said he wasn’t sure what the family would have done for Christmas dinner had it not been for the delivery.

Marilyn Durham lives down the lane from Harwehe, along with her husband and five dogs. Her husband has been diagnosed with dementia and the couple struggles to make ends meet on Social Security, she said.