Free holiday meal feeds Greenville-area families

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 9:44 am on Friday, December 28, 2012

About 330 bags of groceries were made up for families to take home with them on Thursday from the Greenville community meal. From left, volunteers Lucas Christensen, Danata Paulino and Brianna Van Houten get the bags of groceries ready. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

GREENVILLE —Many people took advantage of a free meal offered to those who may go without this holiday season.

Lori Linderman of Greenville attended the meal Thursday afternoon in the Greenville High School cafeteria with her five children and her father.

“(The dinner) helps the kids get a good meal,” said Linderman of why she and her family attended.

Since the event started three years ago, Linderman has been attending to help provide for her children.

Donated groceries are also sent home with families to help them get through a couple of days.

“The groceries really help,” Linderman said. “Especially with five kids, it gets expensive.”

The lunch began three years ago when Greenville Public Schools Director of Student Services Linda Van Houten had a family approach her about getting meals for their children, who receive free breakfast and lunch at school, when school is not in session.

This year, St. Charles Catholic Church and Our Lady of Consolation in Rockford donated groceries so every family could leave the lunch with a bag of groceries to take home.

“We have 330 bags of groceries to give to families,” said Van Houten, noting more than $300 in gift cards were donated along with toiletry items.

“It’s just neat,” she said of the community coming together.

A Greenville community meal was held on Thursday at the Greenville High School cafeteria to help those who go without during the winter. Families not only received a hefty meal, but were able to take home a bag of groceries as well. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

During the event, many groups volunteered their time and efforts including school staff, sports teams, DECA, alumni, band and choir members and more.

“I love seeing the kids volunteer for this,” Van Houten said.

Senior Taylor DeWildt-Christensen, 18, vice president of charitable fundraising for DECA, said volunteering for the community meal has meant a lot to her.

“I am very fortunate, and it’s my job to give back to those who are not as fortunate,” DeWildt-Christensen said.

Part of the job for her and other community meal volunteers is to help hand out groceries and hygiene items. They also helped carry plates and drinks for those who needed help.

“I get a sense of joy helping,” DeWildt-Christensen said. “I also enjoy talking to (the people) and getting to know them.”

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