Christy Berry and Mandy Moore unload donated food for Merry Meals on Dec. 4, 2012, in Chesterton, Ind. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
HOW TO HELP
For more about Merry Meals and information on how to donate, go to www.merrymeals.com. The group also is on Facebook.
Updated: January 22, 2013 6:18AM
Four years ago, Mandy Moore of Chesterton saw someone was giving away a turkey on the Freecycle website.
Out of curiosity, she contacted the giver and discovered 50 people wanted the holiday staple. Sensing an unfilled need in her community, Moore put together seven meals and put that up on Freecycle.
She was inundated with requests, and recently recalled how hard it was to select just seven families.
That effort was the start of Merry Meals, which, this year, will supply Christmas dinners to 500 families.
“We’re branching out to Lake County and doing a little bit of LaPorte County, and that’s the goal,” Moore said. Her group also sent nonperishable food items to Joplin, Mo., a year-and-a-half ago after a deadly tornado struck that city.
Fundraising and food donations keep the program running, and businesses, including the Gary SouthShore RailCats, and community groups such as the Boy Scouts have contributed to the program.
Moore and the agency’s board of directors come up with families to receive the meals, and also turn to churches, schools and the Boys and Girls Clubs for suggestions.
Besides a turkey, families receive cake mixes and other goods to make their dinners. This year, the meals will be distributed Dec. 22, the Saturday before Christmas.
“I think more people are hearing about us,” Moore said, adding some families received help more than once, but word of mouth generated additional families, “so we’re able to grow that way.”
Helping with the donations is James Barath, a certified mortgage planner with a Crown Point firm. He was one of the original board members for Merry Meals and said he, Moore and the other board members graduated from Chesterton High School.
Barath, who lives in Chesterton, said his firm collected more than 570 boxes of corn bread mix last year, which were distributed to 250 families, along with a cash donation to Merry Meals. His goal is to get 1,000 boxes this year.
“It’s one of those things where we try to help out the community,” Barath said. “If we do collect 1,000 boxes, and I know we will, my team will donate $500 to Merry Meals.”