On Christmas Day, when many families joyously come together, there are always some folks who are left alone. But in Georgia, two Lions clubs—the East Cobb Lions and the Marietta Lions—have spent 35 years making sure that no one is left out.
Each Christmas, the clubs deliver meals and visit with their county’s homebound seniors. The seniors normally receive a hot meal each day through the county-run Meals on Wheels program, but the county employees are off so they can spend the holidays with their families. “Nobody wanted to work on Christmas,” says PDG Ray Moore, an East Cobb Lion.
This Christmas miracle was actually born on Thanksgiving, when the two clubs were sharing a meal 35 years ago. They realized there was a need. And they decided that they would be the ones to step in and serve. Now the program has become so popular that many families in the community have asked to be a part of it. One man even brings his family 75 miles on Christmas morning to help in the kitchen.
“People love it,” says Moore. “It’s a good way to teach your kids about caring for other people.”
All of us want to know that our life has some meaning and will have some impact on others.
The Lions and their extra volunteers work together preparing and delivering about 100 meals—some years more and some less.
In November, Moore gets the names of those in need. He and his wife, Liz, also an East Cobb Lion, start collecting gift card donations from grocery stores and combine those with money from Lion fundraisers and private donations to start shopping for good deals on food. Each meal will include turkey and ham, candied yams, green beans, stuffing and rolls, plus a gift bag of fresh fruit, Christmas candy and cake.
The Moores start the beans on Christmas Eve before they gather with their own family. By 9 a.m. on Christmas Day the volunteers are arriving at Powers Ferry United Methodist Church to prepare the rest and package meals for delivery around Cobb County.
Many folks, young and old, gather in festive spirit around tables to decorate the gift bags for the fruit and dessert, supervised by the Moore’s granddaughter, and Moore hands out maps directing volunteers to seniors’ homes for deliveries. When the drivers are off and running, the Moores stay to clean up.
Because they get together with their family on Christmas Eve, their Christmas Day would be quiet without this project. “My wife would be forced to sit there and stare at me all day on Christmas and I’d feel so sorry for her, so I have to continue this,” he says, laughing. “We’re kind of tired when it’s over and done, but we’re really satisfied.”
Marietta Lions Steve and Nan Hughes, and their daughter, Amy, have also made this a holiday tradition.
“All of us look forward to Christmas morning. It’s a commitment, but then again, it’s not. You look forward to it because you know whoever you see, you may touch on this special day. They may not have contact with anyone else that day, and we are providing them with a nutritious meal they wouldn’t get otherwise,” Steve Hughes says.
“People are excited [at the church]. Kids are running around. It’s not something medical. We’re not providing eyeglasses or hearing aids or educating, but it’s exactly what we are charged to do—to serve.”
“When you ask people why they are a Lion, they respond with all the things Lions do,” says Moore. “But the real reason you’re a Lion is because what you do makes you feel good about yourself. All of us want to know that our life has some meaning and will have some impact on others. What we do in this project gives us validation. It’s hard work, but it feels good. It’s Christmas.”
Learn more how Lions around the world are fighting hunger and how you can start a hunger service project today.
Joan Cary is the assistant editor for LION Magazine.