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Helping Hands lightens up holidays
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Cornerstone Church’s Helping Hands is looking for more volunteer hands to assist in the distribution of 200 Thanksgiving food boxes to area families this weekend.

“A lot of people from our church are helping but anybody that wants to come and help is welcome,” said Lillian Cushman who shares coordinating responsibilities with husband, Jack, in this Cornerstone ministry.

 The food baskets will be handed out from 10 a.m. until noon at the church located on the corner of East Highway 120 and Comconex Avenue. No pre-signups are required to receive a box filled with a frozen turkey and all the trimmings for a Thanksgiving dinner. It will be on a first come- first served basis.

In addition to the traditional turkey, each box contains potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkins, yams, a pie crust, marshmallows, cans of gravy and some vegetables, all of which are donated by church members and other generous individuals in the community, Cushman said. Loaves of bread and rolls provided by the church round out the contents of the food boxes. The turkeys are from the Turkeys R Us effort.

She said their church started collecting the food items right after Halloween.

“We made an announcement in church on the Sunday after Halloween and the response has been absolutely wonderful. People really stepped up to the plate,” Cushman said.

“We set up boxes in our church and put in a list of things that they could bring, and everybody has been bringing things that we asked for. We had almost 100 boxes that people brought back,” she said.

They are still trying to collect more food items for this weekend’s distribution. This year, they asked for 180 turkeys from Second Harvest via Turkeys R Us“and I think that’s what we’re going to get,” Cushman said.

“We’re expecting at least 200 people to come for the food. Some other people have been donating, so hopefully we’ll have 200 (turkeys), enough for what we’re expecting. Last year, we had about 175 (people come) and we ran out of turkeys. We had – I hate to say this – but we had to give cold cuts. We felt so hurt to tell people that we ran out of turkeys,” she said.

They fill each box with enough food for a family of four as a general rule, Cushman said. “If they are a family of six or a bigger family, we might give them a little bit more.”

In addition to some members of the church, the Cushmans will be assisted in the food distribution this Saturday by their son and daughter-in-law, David and Sylvia, and their two boys. David and Sylvia are the owners of David and Sylvia’s Family Dining in the Cardoza Center on North Main and Louise Avenue. The younger couple took over the restaurant following the retirement of Jack and Lillian Cushman who owned and operated the family-dining establishment for 22 years under the name Pietro’s.

After they retired, the older Cushmans found themselves even more busy with philanthropic work such as the annual motorcycle ride to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and the Helping Hands at Cornerstone. The church made them directors of this food-for-the-needy program two years ago.

Somebody else was handling the ministry at that time, Lillian said, but “they left because of ill health or something, so our pastor (the Rev. Scott Hoag) asked us if we would take it. And I thought, why not? This is what God wants us to do – to feed the hungry. So we said yes, not really knowing what it really was about.”

As part of their responsibilities, she and her husband do the shopping for the food items, stock them in the food trailer, clean up the trailer and put food boxes together.

While Thanksgiving and Christmas are the major distribution days, the main part of Helping Hands’ ministry is to give away food every third Saturday of the month at the church.

“An important part of our church is to feed the hungry, not just food-food but spiritual food, too,” Lillian said.

Those who want to donate nonperishable food items for the Thanksgiving distribution Saturday can bring these to the church during regular business hours. They also accept cash donations, with checks made out to Cornerstone Helping Hands program, Lillian said.

Helping Hands, in fact, will continue to accept food donations even after Thanksgiving to make a head start for the next big distribution day, Christmas.

For more information on how to make a donation or to volunteer this Saturday, call the church office at 825-1220.