North Light lends a helping hand to families in need for the holidays

Just days after raising $10,000 through an annual fundraiser, North Light was back out in the community helping needy families for the holidays.  Throughout the day on Monday, local families filtered through the Green Lane community center to pick up their Thanksgiving care packages. 

“It’s been a real hectic day today,” said Steve Walsh, coordinator of the Community Food Cupboard at North Light Community Center.

In the small gymnasium, boxes and cans of food blanketed the floor. North Light staff sorted donations into family care packages while a dozen turkeys thawed on the adjacent kitchen counter. The team was assembling care packages consisting of turkey, stuffing, vegetables, biscuits and, in some cases, a pie. 

“Real potatoes, we don’t see these very often,” said Kathy Verbrugghe, bursar of NLCC, looking through a donation package. “Real celery, we have to get this stuff out real quick. We do not have any space for this food.”

To accentuate the point, Verbrugghe opens the kitchen freezer; it is packed to the gills. The Friends in Supplying Help (FISH) Community Food Cupboard helped to provide the food. According to Walsh, all the food is donated by local organizations and people.

“The food cupboard has been here a long time,” said North Light Executive Director Irene Madrak. “At least, over 30 years, it was here when I first started. There have been similar programs going all the way back to the 1960s.”

Walsh says FISH served more than 200 meals last Thanksgiving but he expects less this year.

“The donations have been slower and coming in later,” said Walsh. “This time last year, we were handing out turkeys until 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at night.” 

But Verburgghe adds that the need hasn’t decreased. 

“There are a lot more applications this year because of unemployment,” she said. 

Families must apply through North Light for the assistance. The families often apply for both Thanksgiving and Christmas assistance. Applicants must be under a certain poverty line to qualify. If North Light is unable to provide, the organization will try to get a church or charitable organization to adopt a family.

Most of the families receiving these food packages are from the Roxborough-Manayunk area.

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