One local business is helping make the holiday season a little brighter for folks in need.
Lee Mechanical, 2915 60th St., is collecting donations and raising funds for the Shalom Center, 4314 39th Ave., as part of its second annual Fill-the-Truck Food Drive.
“I think the community just wants to pull together and help each other during such a difficult time,” said Julie Kunath, Lee’s service office manager. “It’s a wonderful cause for Kenosha.”
Last year, the effort raised about two-and-a-half tons of food and toiletries. Kunath expects to raise far more this year.
“This year, I’m hoping to increase that and go to at least three tons of food,” Kunath said. “The Shalom Center is looking for mainly canned goods, non-perishable toiletries, different items that will last on their shelf and won’t spoil right away.”
Among the most requested items are canned soup, canned fruit, tomato sauce, toothpaste, socks and dish soap. Monetary donations are also welcome.
Locals can drop off donations at Lee Mechanical during normal business hours. The effort ends Dec. 12, when Santa, Mrs. Claus and their favorite elf will be onsite between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to take photos with children and pass out goodie bags. Masks are required.
“At the end of the day, it’s the best feeling when we drive that truck over to the Shalom Center,” Kunath said. “Come out, donate and see Santa Claus. Make it a family day.”
Because so many malls are skipping the traditional Santa experience, Kunath said Lee’s offering a safer alternative.
“It’s kind of a way to get people, children and families, to get their pictures with Santa at a safe distance,” she said. “Everybody’s happy and we have a lot of employees who chip in.”
Kunath’s son-in-law will portray Santa, one of her daughters will be Mrs. Claus and one of her brothers will play the elf.
Filling a Need
Dustin Beth, Shalom’s director of development and community engagement, said the local nonprofit’s food pantry is crucial to many local families. The nonprofit shifted it’s pantry into a drive-thru.
“One of the things that we recognize here is that the work we do would not be possible without the partnership from people, and businesses and organizations across this community,” Beth said. “In this time, with COVID, of course, there’s so much on peoples’ minds and this just heightens the awesome nature of our community. … The people, the organizations and businesses are generally invested in the success of everyone in this community.”
Beth said the pantry is busier than normal because so many are out of work or facing reduced wages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. He said he’s humbled by his work.
“I had this lady who pulled up and it looked like somewhat of a new car and she was just in tears. Because she’s like ‘I never thought in my life that I would end up in a food pantry. Things have just built up and completely crashed down and I didn’t know where to go to,’” Beth said.
Beth said no one should feel ashamed for seeking help from the pantry.
“That’s what we live for,” he said. “People rely on us — whether good times or bad times. … We serve everyone.”