Rockhurst Students and Staff Help St. Francis Xavier Make Christmas Meals Possible for NeighborsDecember 23, 2014

For some families, putting food on the table can be a constant struggle, and the holidays are no different.

That’s why volunteers and staff at St. Francis Xavier Church have for years helped those in need provide a full holiday meal to their loved ones with their annual Christmas basket drive. Again this year, Rockhurst University staff and students helped with the effort.

Rebecca Hinman McKnight, pastoral associate for justice and life at St. Francis Xavier Church and a 2013 Rockhurst University graduate, said volunteers and staff at the parish spent countless hours preparing for the drive, which helped feed 107 different families and more than 300 people.

The church provides the major components for each basket, including homemade Christmas cookies, gift cards and a turkey, and coordinates a massive effort that includes both home delivery and an assembly-line style basket distribution at the church. With an effort this big, she said the church is happy to have some help, and she added that as an alum, the experience touched her personally.

“On Thursday I was brought to tears by the sincerity and compassion of the community that came together to provide assistance to our clients coming to pick up their holiday goodies. Over the course of the afternoon, over 50 volunteers came in and out of the church helping clients carry their bags of food to their car, delivering to the homebound, or just being a friendly listening ear,” she said. “This year we were blessed by the presence of students, faculty, and staff from Rockhurst University who kindly offered their time to assist on this day of joy.”

Those attending the annual Ceremony of Lessons and Carols at St. Francis Xavier Church on Dec. 5 were asked to donate a non-perishable food item in lieu of admission. A canned food drive on campus during the first two weeks of December collected canned goods for the effort. Rockhurst University Dining Services also contributed to the baskets, donating a total of $1,300, which translated to 1,940 each of red apples and oranges and 161 5-pound bags of potatoes.

Rockhurst University staff and student volunteers also joined St. Francis parishioners to direct those picking up their baskets on Dec. 18. Decho Valev, a sophomore studying finance and accounting, committed to memory exactly how many people he had served during his shift. Though much is made of giving to others during the holiday season, he said it can be easy to lose sight of all the ways to give.

“I really wanted to share with the community,” he said. “It’s a really easy way to make some other people around us happy.”

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