Make a difference: You can help 'Just a Little Lunch’ feed families at Thanksgiving time

“Just a Little Lunch” provides meals for the needy at Thanksgiving time. CONTRIBUTED
“Just a Little Lunch” provides meals for the needy at Thanksgiving time. CONTRIBUTED

Centerville family and hundreds of volunteers assemble bags of food for those in need

It was a 2009 article in the Dayton Daily News that inspired John and Niki Lee of Centerville to launch their project now known as “Just a Little Lunch.” In that first year it was a family affair, with food from the family’s own pantry and donations from their children’s Halloween candy stash. The Lees decorated 50 bags, filled them with food and delivered them to a local homeless shelter.

Since that time, the nonprofit organization has blossomed. These days, with the help of 400 dedicated volunteers, the group provides bag lunches at Thanksgiving time to needy families. Last year they assembled 5,000 box lunches.

Part of the original concept was to involve young people with the project, teaching them to give back. Of the 440 volunteers last year, half were under the age of 18.

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Last year, volunteers gathered together at the Living Hope Church (pictured) to make food packages. This year, volunteers will be making food packages in their homes and dropping those off. CONTRIBUTED
Last year, volunteers gathered together at the Living Hope Church (pictured) to make food packages. This year, volunteers will be making food packages in their homes and dropping those off. CONTRIBUTED

Changes this year

As you can imagine, the COVID-19 crisis has altered this year’s plans, but the Lees are still determined to go ahead with their project.

“Even though 2020 is such a different year, Just a Little ‘More’ Lunch will still be doing our event to support families in the Miami Valley for the twelfth year,” John says. “This time, our Thanksgiving food packages will be focusing on families in need in Kettering, Centerville, Bellbrook, Miamisburg, West Carrollton and Springboro. We will also be dropping off food packages to downtown Dayton shelters.”

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The organization will be providing hundreds of family food packages on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving. And, they’ve made a few changes. “We are turning our normally large event with hundreds of volunteers together in a building, into a contactless food drop-off event,” John explains. “Instead of joining us at Living Hope Church in Centerville for the big event, volunteers will be making food packages for four people in their homes and dropping those off to Living Hope Church on our big drop-off day."

The Lee family founded the organization “Just a Little Lunch.” CONTRIBUTED
The Lee family founded the organization “Just a Little Lunch.” CONTRIBUTED

How it began

The 2009 newspaper article the Lees first saw mentioned St. Vincent de Paul Gateway for Women & Children Shelter and its need for bag lunches to help support families around the Thanksgiving holidays and the days after.

“I brought this issue to my family to see if they were interested in doing 50 bag lunches,” says John. “Then, my son Jackson (5) and my daughter Katie (8) along with my wife decided the day before Thanksgiving was a great day to assemble these lunches.”

The Lees say part of their mission is teaching young adults in our community to learn how to volunteer at an early age.

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How you can help

If you’d like to get involved, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Sign up to volunteer on the website at https://justalittlelunch.wixsite.com/2020.
  • You’ll be provided with a detailed list of food items and given instructions on going to the grocery and how to assemble them. The cost is approximately $25 for a package that will serve four people. It will include a small frozen turkey, canned veggies, fresh fruit and more.
  • All of the food will fit into two decorated grocery paper bags. When checking out at the store, ask for two paper grocery bags per food package.
  • Once you get home, you will want to keep a few of the items in the fridge/freezer until drop-off day.
  • Volunteers — and you’re encouraged to involve children — will decorate the grocery paper bags with inspirational quotes and drawings and put all of the other items together.
  • Drop-off day is Wednesday, Nov. 25, from 8-11 a.m. You’ll bring your assembled and decorated bags with all the food items inside to Living Hope Church in Centerville, located at 1150 W Spring Valley Pike, and wait in your car until a board member signals you to drop it off in a specific area.
  • Cut off for signing up is Friday, Nov. 20.
  • Families in need of these food packages can also sign up and pick up from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Nov. 25 at Living Hope Church in Centerville. Food packages are limited so it’s a first-come, first served sign-up.

If you have any questions, please contact justalittlelunch@gmail.com.

Says John Lee: “What motivates us are the stories that touch us each year, the hugs and smiles when we deliver these box lunches and knowing there is love in every lunch. One act of kindness can change the world.”

Shoes available

A Make a Difference reader has written to offer 20 pairs of shoes to an organization that might be able to make use of them.

“Some are new, some worn only a few times and some still very usable but previously worn,” she writes. “My problem is that I’ve had to have all my shoes adjusted by a shoe repair guy for many years because I have a discrepancy of leg lengths because of injury to my back in an auto accident.”

If your group has a use for these shoes, write to jagrm2@woh.rr.com.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Meredith Moss writes about Dayton-area nonprofit organizations in our area and their specific needs. If your group has a wish list it would like to share with our readers, contact Meredith: MMoss@coxohio.com

Please include a daytime phone number and a photo that reflects your group’s mission.

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