Holiday season is on the horizon, with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner. With that, community organizations are banding together to help provide for families in need during that time.
One such group currently gearing up for the giving season is the First Responder Holiday Helpers group, led by the Harvey County Sheriff's Office, Newton Police Department and other first responders from Burrton, Halstead, Hesston, North Newton, Sedgwick and Walton.
This year, the First Responder Holiday Helpers will be spearheading their third-annual food drive to help families across Harvey County, with the group officially launching its donation campaign this month.
"Last year, we fed right at 300 families, so we're hoping to get folks to be willing to contribute again so we can have another big year," Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay said. "That's a lot of people."
With the food drive, the First Responder Holiday Helpers partner with Dillons — who provide their facilities to help in the packaging of food boxes, a discounted rate for all food purchased and a 10% match on all money donated.
Food boxes include staples like cereal, canned goods and more that are projected to feed a family of four for a couple of weeks. Additionally, working through Dillons allows the Holiday Helpers to keep the contents of each box uniform.
Donations to help with the Holiday Helpers food drive are requested in monetary form, as the deal with Dillons helps maximize the contents of the food box. Each box costs $75 to put together and Gay noted the group is hoping for an equally successful campaign in 2019, looking to help feed at least 300 families again this year.
Gay sees the food drive as a chance to give back, and he is hoping Harvey County residents will view it in a similar manner and consider helping this year.
"It's an opportunity for them to give back to their community. I'm hoping that's the way they look at it," Gay said. "You have an opportunity to help out a family who might be struggling a little bit."
Each local first responder agency submits families it thinks could use some extra support over the holidays. For the sheriff's office and NPD, the schools are often utilized to help in selecting families.
Once the boxes are put together by the Holiday Helpers at the Dillons facility, they are brought back to the law enforcement center and distributed amongst the agencies to take out to their respective communities. That is something Gay has been a part of in the past. As a Newton native himself, he looks forward to this chance to help out in the community, as well as being a way for officers to have more positive interactions with community members.
"Sometimes, we're not seen as givers as much as we would like to, so this is a great opportunity for us to be able to do something good, do something positive and give back to our community," Gay said. "It's nice to have a family that's happy to see us, so it's good. They're typically really happy to see us, glad we're there and very thankful."
Boxes will be packed in early December. Those wanting to help with this year's campaign financially can drop off/send donations to the Harvey County Sheriff's Office or Newton Police Department, 120 E. Seventh St., Newton, KS 67114. Checks should be made out to First Responder Holiday Helpers. For more information, call the sheriff's office at 284-6960.