ALAN ROGERS / THE SOUTHERN Pastor Doug Cherry (left) of Victory Dream Center helps shoppers choose Christmas gifts for their children Sunday, Dec. 11 during the Operation 350 food and toy giveaway in Carbondale. The church provided free toys, as well as boxes of food, to 350 local families who received vouchers in advance.

The Spirit of Christmas is a program begun 40 years ago by what is now the Carbondale Interfaith Council. The purpose is to provide a centralized way to handle requests for Christmas gifts received by various Carbondale churches and make sure that as many needy people as possible receive gifts without duplication.

Each year about a dozen different agencies submit gift requests for those persons who probably would not be receiving a Christmas gift otherwise.

One of the churches participating in the program is the Church of the Good Shepherd in Carbondale.

The program is an anonymous gift project. The gifts are due back to Church of the Good Shepherd no later than Sunday, Dec. 8 to be distributed to the agencies submitting names. A list of recommended gifts is included with the name. The average amount to spend on each recipient is about $50. The gifts must be new and gift wrapped. For more information or questions call Jan Ritzel at 618-549-1994.

Spirit of Love/Operation 350 Food and Gift Drive, a project of Victory Dream Center in Carbondale, hopes to distribute more than 16,000 pounds of food and more than 1,000 toys and other gifts to local families in need this year, the 15th year the drive has been held.

The church will provide larges boxes of food and gifts for 350 families, with 300 receiving boxes on Dec. 15 and an additional 100 food boxes will be given away subsequently as families with needs are made known to the church throughout December and January.

Individuals and organizations are invited to make a tax deductible donation or to contribute toys and other gifts for children and teens.

Checks may be made out to VDC (Victory Dream Center) and mailed to 607 E. College St. Carbondale, IL 62901, or dropped off from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Fridays at the church. Toys may also be dropped off at the church through noon, Saturday, Dec. 14.

Employers who wish to make their holiday gift exchange a benefit for Spirit of Love/Operation 350 may request fliers from the church. Merchants donating cases of food, packing materials or other supplies are asked to contact the church office to arrange a pickup time.

More than 1,000 gifts are needed for children through age 17. Suggested items are games, stuffed animals, blocks, dolls, tea sets, trucks and cars, puzzles, tool sets, art supplies, balls, jewelry, keyboards and other musical toys.

For teens, suggestions are bath products, wallets, purses, journals, diaries, and athletic equipment including basketballs and footballs. Those contributing toys that need batteries are asked to include the batteries and to tape them to the box. Candles are not recommended because of the risk of fire. Gifts should not be wrapped because the participants will be choosing the gifts for their children.

Community members may also volunteer to help at box packing day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 Some volunteers are needed to do heavy lifting but light duty tasks are also available.

A voucher is required to receive a box and gifts. Vouchers will be distributed and available for pickup at 10 a.m. Dec. 3 and Dec. 10. Vouchers will be available at the church at 607 E. College St. Vouchers will be redeemed on Dec. 15.

For more information contact Pastor Nathan Cherry at 618-525-2025 or 618-351-8018.

Share the Spirit is a toy, coat and food drive conducted by the Murphysboro High School Key Club, which will make deliveries directly to Murphysboro families on Saturday, Dec. 14 and the following week.

Last year about 400 food boxes (with the club buying almost $12,000 worth of food in addition to what was donated), 8,000 wrapped toys and 200 coats were distributed to local families.

Requests for the assistance can be mailed to Key Club, 28 Candy Lane, Murphysboro, IL 62966. They must include names of parents and children, gender, ages, address and phone number, and coat sizes if requested. No names will be taken by phone.

Monetary donations can be sent to 28 Candy Lane, with checks written to Murphysboro Key Club.

Also needed are new or like-new toys and coats (especially children’s coats), food, and wrapping paper. Drop-off points for these items are: Walgreens, Super Wal-Mart, Rural King, Sallie Logan Library, Wright’s Building Center, Jackson County Courthouse, Elks Lodge, Kroger, Old National Bank, Dollar General, Dairy Queen, Family Video, Polish and Style, Regions Bank, Bank of Carbondale, and Annie Mae’s, all in Murphysboro. Items may be donated until Dec. 9.

Feed My Sheep is a community kitchen at Bethel AME Church, 316 E. Jackson St. in Carbondale. Lunch is served daily on site and through deliveries, between 80 and 100 meals daily starting at noon Monday through Friday. Donations are welcomed but anyone in need of a meal is served.

Donations and volunteers are both needed to keep the kitchen running and to deliver the meals. Donations can be mailed to Bethel AME Church, 316 E. Jackson St., Carbondale, IL 62901. Those interested in volunteering can call the church at 618-529-5278.

More information on the community kitchen can be found on the website, The church also may be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jackson and Perry Counties provides life-changing mentoring experiences for children ages 6 to 16 in the community, helping them to succeed in school, develop healthier relationships and strengthen their self-esteem.

Gifts may be sent to Big Brothers Big Sisters, 604 E. College St., Carbondale, IL 62901. There is no charge for children or adults to participate in the program.

For more information on volunteering as a “Big” or enrolling a “Little” in the program, contact Ramona Girtman at or phone 618-457-6703, ext. 216. The website is

Jackson-Union County Habitat for Humanity serves people in need in the bi-county area by building decent, affordable homes for working poor families. An ecumenical Christian housing ministry established in 1989, the affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International has built more than 25 homes and is planning to build one to two homes per year.

Their current project is located at 2006 Commercial St. in Murphysboro. Volunteers are needed from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday except for holiday weekends. No experience is needed to help.

Donations of funds are needed to begin work on the next home in Murphysboro. Volunteers also are needed in all areas of the Habitat ministry, as well. Donations may be sent to Jackson-Union County Habitat for Humanity, P.O. Box 1064, Carbondale, IL 62903-1064. To volunteer time, call 618-457-8480 or visit

Brown Bag Program is a year-round project of The View Church, 1201 S. Giant City Road in Carbondale. It provides kid-friendly meals for children in the area. Children receive a bag each Friday to help provide food over the weekend when free school lunches are not available. The Brown Bag Program also provides gifts, coats, eyeglasses and similar items for children in need throughout the year.

For more information call The View office at 618-351-0841.

Brehm Preparatory School and OPTIONS Transitions to Independence are not-for-profit programs for junior high, senior high and post-high school students with complex learning disabilities.

The programs serve children and young adults from throughout the United States and other countries. Scholarships for local students are needed.

Donations to the scholarship fund or the general school fund can be sent to Brehm Preparatory School, 1245 E. Grand Ave., Carbondale, IL 62901. For more information call 618-457-0371 or email

De Soto Christmas Baskets are a project of the churches of De Soto and the De Soto Branch of Old National Bank, to provide a happier holiday for those in need. Items that are needed include toys, nonperishable food items, children’s mittens, gloves, scarves, hats, cash gifts to purchase meat, fruit and other perishable items and cardboard boxes of medium sizes, wrapped in Christmas paper.

A special tree at the bank will have numbered tags, each representing a child. People are invited to purchase a gift for that child, for about $20, wrap the gift and return it, with the original numbered tag attached, to the bank by Dec. 13. Mittens, hats, scarves, etc., can be brought to the churches or the bank by Dec. 13, to be included in the baskets for children.

Also needed are cookies and candy, including some diabetic cookies and candy, to include in the food boxes. There will also be a bank account set up at De Soto Old National Bank for cash donations.

Volunteers will meet Dec. 17 at the Village Hall to sort food donations and make up the baskets. Pickup, distribution and delivery of baskets will begin Dec. 19.

Those with questions may contact Julie White, Mary Reese or Chris Melhorn at the De Soto Branch of Old National Bank, 618-867-3341 or Lola Jones at 618-521-2109.

Murphysboro Food Pantry strives to ensure that any qualifying individual or family residing in Jackson County will be able to receive a generously sized box of food at least once a month. The pantry distributes the boxes based on family size and packs them with a nutritious variety of canned vegetables, fruit, juice, pasta, rice or beans, peanut butter and dinner kits. Clients may choose from a variety of desserts, fresh produce and fresh fruit.

The pantry also has a variety of fish and meats. Volunteers provide this service every weekday morning with attention to creating an atmosphere that promotes respect and dignity to each client. None of this would be possible without the generous donations from the community. The pantry is asking that anyone counting their blessings this holiday season share a bit with those who suffer the pain of hunger. Any donation will be accepted and welcomed. Donations may be mailed to Murphysboro Food Pantry, P.O. Box 671, Murphysboro, IL.

For more information call 618-684-8258.

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