Wilson County Commissioner Jerry McFarland with Possum Town Outreach prepared a load of food Monday morning to be taken to Hancock County residents.
Property Assessor Bill Seal and Tom Seal, both of Hancock County but from different "clans," joined McFarland at Aldi Supermarket in Lebanon to 6,000 pounds of food loaded to be distributed to those in need in Hancock County, the poorest county in the state and the ninth poorest in the nation
"From here we'll be going to Cynthia Cato's to pick up seven boxes filled with toothpaste, soap and shampoo," McFarland said. "Then we'll go on to my house to pick up 25-30 bikes that have been donated. We even have a red Radio Flyer wagon."
PTO is still filling a tractor trailer truck with things underprivileged Hancock County residents will need for the holiday. Among the things being prepared are carefully measured bags of sugar, brown sugar, rice and yeast along with toys, clothes and furniture.
"The Hancock County Rescue Squad and Geni Seal, who is my point of contact in the county, has identified all the families in need and the number of people in each family. They'll break it down and distribute it this weekend in time for Christmas dinner," he said.
McFarland said none of the donations would be possible without contributions from Wilson County residents.
"We bought all this food with donated money," he said. "We've been very fortunate. I got a $100 donation at church and then a call to pick up a $500 check. We've had the most generous contributions."
Jamie Duke with Aldi also helped load the truck. He reluctantly admitted he bought some of the food going on the truck. Friendship Christian School students were also instrumental in helping the effort doing everything from measuring flour to loading the truck parked across the street from the school with food, clothes and toys.
McFarland said for many people in Hancock County, the choice isn't between buying toys for their children this Christmas or buying food.
"For a lot of them the choice is heat or eat," he said. "That's what it boils down to."
Deborah Hoeronimus, a Friendship parent was also at the loading. She said the poverty in Hancock County is serious and disturbing.
"I've never seen really hungry people until I visited Hancock County," she said. "It broke my heart."
McFarland said the group is still taking contributions, and it's not too late to help make Christmas brighter for Hancock County residents this year.
Those who want to help can send checks to Possum Town Outreach, P.O. Box 26, Lebanon, TN, 37088-0026 or call McFarland at 615-330-8474 to arrange to drop off donations. Any cash donations will be used to buy more food and clothes.
"We really appreciate the help," said Bill Seal.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.