‘We have more need every year’
Charitable group keeps pace with an increase of families in need
A pair of socks lies on top of a bag in the corner. They are white with pink ribbing and encased in plastic with a few other pairs.
They're tiny, and stretch but an inch or two. Must be for a baby girl.
On down the line and to the left, an action figure stares with menacing eyes and growling mouth. The toy is placed beside a paper sack with the words "13-year-old boy" written on the outside.
To the casual observer, it was a humbling scene Friday, Dec. 19 at the Basehor United Methodist Church on 158th Street. At the church, volunteers of the Basehor-Linwood Assistance Services tackled a mountain of donations, sorting and organizing the gifts in time for families in need to pick them up for Christmas.
There, lying on the church's floor, are reasons why anyone with food in their refrigerators and wrapped packages under their trees should feel fortunate indeed.
There, $2 worth of socks or a $4 action figure means someone who would have gone without on Christmas won't have to. There, stacks upon stacks
of 99-cent canned goods means a family won't go hungry.
"The generosity of the community has always been overwhelming," said Debbie Dearinger, director of Basehor-Linwood Assistance Services. "We have more need every year but the schools and organizations donate things, which really helps.
"The community is wonderfully responsive," she added.
This year, the assistance service helped acquire donations of food, clothing, toys and an assortment of other needed items for approximately 18 families in the Basehor-Linwood School District.
The handful of volunteers spent four hours organizing the food and gifts Friday night. The families in need picked up the items Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Since its inception, the group has seen a near annual increase in the number of families requesting assistance during the holiday season.
"It surprises me," Dearinger said. "Every year, it surprises me even more."
The process by which a family in need receives donations from assistance services is confidential. Only Dearinger knows the names of families asking for help.
"It's all completely confidential," she said. "These guys (pointing to the volunteers working Friday night) don't even know who they are. No names are ever mentioned."
Assistance service takes careful steps to avoid releasing the names of needy families. Volunteers used assigned letters -- each family was designated one -- to organize gifts Friday night.
Those families might have been without if not for the work of a local student.
In 1993, volunteers launched Basehor-Linwood Assistance Service, then a new program to the area. A first-grade student at the time, Garrett Chumley, set the charitable example for the group's formation.
As a project, Garrett, then a 6-year-old at Basehor Elementary School, scoured local neighborhoods for recyclable items. The funds gained from the recycling, approximately $500, was donated to local families and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation matched the funds.
Shortly thereafter, assistance services was formed.
For the last 10 years, the not-for-profit organization has assisted more than 100 families with items for Christmas, Thanksgiving, back-to-school supplies, utility bills and groceries.
Today, Garrett, now a sophomore at Basehor-Linwood High School, is gratified that his simple act of recycling discarded trash has transformed into a meaningful and worthwhile cause.
"I think it's a great program," he said. "I'm glad I could be a part of it when it started."
While assistance services has met the demands for this yuletide season, the group itself, like the families it serves, is in need of help.
The organization continually donates groceries to families in need during the holiday season and is in desperate need of storage space here locally for a food pantry.
"To have one anywhere would be nice," Dearinger said. "You can't keep enough on hand to help people. It's needed all the time."
Anyone interested in Basehor-Linwood Assistance Services should contact Dearinger at (913) 724-1690