Christmas Appeal helps ministry feed Hamlin-area families - Catholic Courier
People load a truck at Life Solutions of Hamlin.

Volunteers from Hamlin-area fire districts load a truck at Life Solutions of Hamlin, a food pantry and store supported by the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal. (Photo by Mark Ballerstein)

Christmas Appeal helps ministry feed Hamlin-area families

A score of volunteers with the agency Life Solutions of Hamlin Inc. made Christmas a bit brighter for others by delivering holiday food baskets to area families and individuals in need Dec. 17.

With the assistance of firefighters from Hamlin, Walker and Kendall, Life Solutions volunteers distributed bags filled with chickens or hams, baked goods and bread, as well as boxes of fresh produce to about one-third of the homes of 172 families.

The remainder of the families picked up their Christmas food at the pantry the agency operates. In addition to the food, 106 of the families also received holiday gifts, with 293 children receiving toys and other items, according to Mark Ballerstein, vice president of Life Solution’s board of directors.

People may be surprised to learn who is in need of assistance

One such family is headed by a single mother, Amanda (who asked that her surname not be used), an area resident who says people may be surprised someone like her needs assistance.

Amanda is a former school teacher who served with the Marines, and who currently holds a decent-paying white collar job. However, she said, she has to pay the bills not only for three children, but two nieces and a nephew whose custody she recently gained when a family member could not take care of them.

“I think a lot of people are quick to judge by what we wear or our education,” she said, noting she has a doctorate. “There are so many layers to people that we don’t know.”

Annual appeals helps fund Christmas baskets for those in need

The Christmas baskets families like Amanda’s received cost anywhere from $100 to $200 each and were funded, in part, by the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal.

When asked why she thinks folks should support the Christmas Appeal and Life Solutions, Amanda cited the biblical story of Simon of Cyrene meeting Jesus Christ on his way to Calvary.

“The Bible says we should help carry the weight of the cross,” she said.

Life Solutions of Hamlin began as a Catholic ministry and now is an ecumenical effort

Some of the children’s gifts were funded by parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Hamlin, one of the agency’s most prominent supporters. Indeed, Life Solutions originally began as a Catholic ministry called Bread and Thread in 1982, and now it’s an ecumenical effort support by Seton as well as other area Protestant churches.

In addition to the fire departments, civic organizations supporting Life Solutions include local farmers and service organizations, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Hamlin Lions, Hamlin Seniors, Hamlin Community Group and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Life Solutions’ food pantry serves the equivalent of 30,000 meals annually

Life Solutions’ food pantry is located in a 3,000 square foot building on Lake Road in Hamlin, and serves between 30 to 60 families and individuals a month, Ballerstein, said. He noted the pantry has helped as many as 65 families in one month recently and provides the equivalent of 30,000 meals annually.

People seeking help don’t need to provide proof of income, he said, noting people can get about a week’s worth of emergency food monthly.

Ballerstein’s wife, Linda, oversees Life Solutions’ Treasure Store, which sells low-cost household items to help fund the organization as well as help families obtain affordable goods.

Ministry has seen a recent increase in the need for its services

Like other agencies that receive Christmas Appeal funds, Life Solutions has seen an uptick in demand over the past year, Ballerstein said.

“This fall inflation really hit people,” he said, noting that gas price increases have adversely affected many people. “We’ve seen about 20 more families than we’ve have compared to the previous months.”

Ballerstein said Life Solutions plans to keep serving individuals and families living on the edge. One event can change their fortunes from good to bad, whether it’s a child’s long-term illness or a broken car used to transport Mom or Dad to work, he added.

“They’re facing challenges, and they’re coping with them as well as they can, and we’re helping them succeed,” he said.

Tags: Catholic Charities, Faith in Action, Monroe County West
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