By Traci Chapman
It might not be obvious from the weather, but Christmas is around the corner – and that means more Mustang area families who might be looking at holidays filled with hunger.
“We’ll have about 115 people in the Mustang School District who will get a holiday meal, thanks to our generous community members, who always pitch in,” Mustang
Kiwanis President Glen Muse said.
That was obvious on Tuesday, as Muse – along with fellow members, Luke Ellis, Scott Floyd, Ron Stanley and Gary Hagan – met at the pantry before heading to Mustang North Middle School and Horizon Intermediate to pick up items gathered by students.
“The kids are always so great about pitching in and helping us gather what we need,” Ellis said.
Schools across the district are regular contributors to the local pantry, as are area businesses, like a trucking firm that donated several boxes of bread last week.
The Mustang Times is again sponsoring its own drive to help Kiwanis’ efforts, opening its office doors to anyone who would like to donate to the food pantry. In years past, the newspaper office foyer has brimmed over with donations, and it is our hope that’s repeated – and then some – this year.
Anyone wishing to drop items at the Times can do so between Nov. 30 and Dec. 21, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each weekday. The office is located at 553 N. Mustang Road and any canned and nonperishable items are welcomed.
Kiwanis members delivered about 75 Thanksgiving meals to families and seniors this year; about 15-20 percent of those they help are seniors, which Muse said is par for last year, but seniors asking for help has risen steadily through the years, members said.
“This, of course, is one of our busiest times, because we have so many people – families and seniors, in particular – who need help this time of year,” member Cindy Wilkerson said.
In addition to helping families each week, Mustang Kiwanis prepare and deliver Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets to more than 100 families and seniors. Beyond those special deliveries, some families struggle during the holidays when children are off school – and not able to eat lunch, and even breakfast, at school.
“That is a very real need, those school meals that families depend on,” Wilkerson said.
Each week, Kiwanis purchase five “regular” staples – cereal, oatmeal, peanut butter, jelly and syrup at a local store, Muse said. Those items are made possible by cash donations, while sometimes area businesses might pitch in items, as well.
Monetary donations are also used to purchase perishables like turkey and ham, milk, butter, eggs, bread, vegetables and other like items.
As in year’s past, the most urgent need is for anything perishable – boxed mashed potatoes, sugar, canned vegetables and other staples for holiday meals, as well as “everyday” perishables like tuna, peanut butter, canned meats, boxed pastas, macaroni and cheese, soups, baby food, canned fruit, cereal, cookies and fruit snacks, among others. While members don’t yet know what will go into this year’s holiday baskets, Muse said cake mix and frosting would be particularly helpful at this time.
While food is always welcome, so too are volunteers. With about 33 members, Kiwanis do a lot with a very few people, and the organization is always looking for anyone who wants to make a difference in their community.
“Anyone is welcome – we can use all the help we can get, and it’s always good to get new members,” Floyd said.
Members meet weekly at the food bank at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, getting it ready for those who are in need. The pantry itself is open from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. that day; anyone living in Mustang School District is welcome.
There are no income requirements, nor is there a screening process, Muse and the others said. Anyone who needs help just needs to bring a photo ID reflecting a home address in the school district, as well as a utility bill or other proof of residency.
Mustang Kiwanis was chartered in April 1971, with the same mission the group has today – service. In addition to its food pantry, the nonprofit, works with Mustang schools, sponsoring elementary schools’ Terrific Kids program, working with middle school students in their Builders’ program and with Mustang High School Key Club members. In fact, students in Key Club often take part in holiday delivery preparation.
“They are a big help, and it’s good for them to see how the efforts come together,” Ellis said.
The group also takes part in city events like Mustang Western Days, where its long-standing pancake breakfast is a crowd favorite, and Spooktacular, where they sponsor children’s activities. The group also takes part in the local effort to bring the holidays to soldiers stationed at Mustang Armed Forces Reserve Center. This
year’s effort is expected to host about 400 soldiers and their families.
Mustang Kiwanis Community Food Bank is located in the back of the Old Fire Station, located at 470 W. state Highway 152. All donations, no matter where made, can be cash or food items and are tax deductible.
For more information about Mustang Kiwanis and its food pantry, contact Muse at 405-376-2695.