Hundreds of volunteers in the community gathered for the opportunity to give last week, distributing Thanksgiving food baskets, serving more than 3,500 people in need in Williamson County.
As part of the United Way of Williamson County annual Full Tummies, Warm Hearts program, 231 sponsor teams, including groups from local employers, civic organizations, churches, schools, families and individuals, collected Thanksgiving baskets for 864 families, or 3,564 individuals, in Williamson County.
Celeste Ware, who serves on the Emerging Leaders of United Way of Williamson County program, has been volunteering and collecting food for the program for the past five years.
“I think we sometimes complain about everyday headaches and issues, and we take for granted that we have food in our pantries and in our refrigerator,” Ware said.
“It’s great to be a blessing to someone else. Some think that people are rolling in wealth in Williamson County, and that is simply not the case.”
About 91 volunteers gathered to distribute the baskets of food to families to aid in providing a holiday meal.
Multiple baskets were delivered to serve families in need in the Williamson County Schools district and Franklin Special School District.
“Many people in Williamson County think that there aren’t any people in need, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Debby Rainey, United Way vice president of strategic initiatives. “There are more than we can imagine.”
She cited that about 7,000 children in Williamson County are on government -provided free and reduced lunch, or live in poverty.
Rainey, who has headed the program for the past several years, said it continues to grow.
In 2006, the program served 257 families, and over 10 years later, the program has grown to serve 862 families this year.
“Every year when we check our numbers, the number of families rises,” Rainey said.
She explained that the program also served about 55 seniors this year.
“We had one senior, who is 85, and she and her husband live in the house where she was born,” Rainey said. “Her neighborhood has changed over the years, and she can’t afford her neighborhood anymore. That’s what happens with prosperity sometimes. People, especially seniors, can’t afford to live in their neighborhoods where they have lived forever.”
About 64 business partners including Ford Motor Credit, Tractor Supply, Embassy Suites, Cool Springs Montessori, STARS group at Centennial High School, Scott Insurance, Spring Hill Police and more than 30 Girl Scout troops, participated in food collection for the baskets.
Williamson County Board of Education member Sheila Cleveland helped deliver baskets as a volunteer as well.
“I think it takes a village to help the children, and it requires everyone being all in,” Cleveland said.
“United Way and those who contribute provide a great service. It’s a community effort. It takes a village to raise children.”
Full Tummies Warm Hearts began through the vision of a few women sitting around a table in conversation about the community.
Members of the Patricia Hart Society women’s group committed to assist individuals and families in Williamson County, who do not have the means to serve or enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal. For more than a decade, United Way of Williamson County (UWWC) corporate partners and individuals have sponsored individuals and families, whose names are not revealed, and contributed donated food, time and resources to make the program possible.
Baskets include nonperishable food and gift cards for perishables, plus anything the donor would like to include such as warm socks, games or other treats or decorations. Local schools and nonprofits handle the confidential receipt of the baskets for the individuals and families.