Billy Ray Neal is only being realistic when he questions whether there will be enough supplies to serve every family in need at the Community Helpers Service Center’s upcoming Christmas cheer box giveaway.
He’d prefer not to admit that is a possibility. But that’s what happened at the Center’s fourth annual Thanksgiving giveaway at Knightdale High School last Saturday, where 300 food packages containing 530 meals were distributed in addition to books for children and an array of winter clothing for people of all ages.
“It don’t take long, buddy,” said Neal, the Center’s president. “Whenever we open the doors, we let 15 to 30 people in at the time. They take what they need and they don’t mess around.”
Neal wants better results for the Christmas giveaway, where children will be anticipating Christmas presents and an appearance by Santa Claus, while their parents will be looking for a boost in the heart of the holiday season. He’s challenging the eastern Wake community to help make it happen.
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Community Helpers plans to hold a clothing, food and toy drive Saturday, Dec. 12, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at its headquarters at 111-B N. First Avenue, Knightdale. Donations of money will also be accepted.
“We know the need that’s in the Knightdale area,” Neal said. “We’re so interested in the children and helping the families that have children.”
Neal’s organization hasn’t struggled to produce volunteers. About 80 people – a mix of Knightdale High students and teachers and workers from the Center – made the Thanksgiving event breeze by, from an operational standpoint.
“I’ve never seen a bunch of high school kids so well-mannered and so professional in helping us, and to know how to meet and greet the people coming through the lines,” he said.
That event lasted about half as long as scheduled, however, with it drawing a crowd that extended into the school’s parking lot.
The rate at which the items went could be perceived in a number of ways.
It could be viewed as a success, that the nonprofit is truly addressing a need in the area.
It could also be a sign that the need is growing. The recent Thanksgiving event served about 25 percent more people than in previous years.
Neal sees it both ways, and as a cue to do all he can to rally more community support for his group’s holiday events, especially with toys for children being a focal point of the upcoming Christmas giveaway.
“It tells me there’s a lot of people you think have, but they really just don’t have,” he said. “I’m not worried about the food too much. My concern now is making sure every child has a toy to unwrap on Christmas Day. This right here will draw people out of the woodworks in Knightdale.”
Neal says there are few things worse than having to turn away families when supplies run out, especially knowing what people are willing to endure to receive the Center’s helping hand.
Last year, when the Center held a Christmas event at Knightdale Community Pool and Clubhouse, people showed up as early as 6 a.m. and waited three hours while it was sleeting for the event to begin.
Having to decline some people, however, has been the ugly cousin of attempting to help all people.
“It doesn’t make you feel good at the end of the day, after all the work you do, if they can’t get what they want or need,” Neal said.
Community Helpers’ Christmas giveaway is set for Dec. 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., or while supplies last, at Knightdale Elementary School.
For more information on the giveaway, or the clothing, food and toy drive, call Neal at 919-271-0181.