If the Christmas spirit is truly about giving, the multitude of volunteers gathered at the home of the Rev. Augusta Narcisse on Friday morning represented it.
For years, Narcisse has championed the annual Salvation Army Friendly Caller Christmas Distribution, which provides meals and gifts to needy residents who are confined to their homes.
This year, the volunteers delivered 600 boxes of food and gifts to residents in Houston, Henry and Geneva counties.
“It goes on year round, and someone calls shut-ins and tries to keep up with them all through the year to see if they have needs and just to give them an encouraging word,” said Linda Bates, social service director for the Salvation Army of Dothan. “Then at Christmas time they go through the three counties and find people that are shut-ins or handicapped or mentally challenged, so they can’t come to sign up for the food. These (volunteers) deliver the food to their homes in the three counties we serve.”
The volunteers working Friday said the program is a rewarding and vital one, especially given the meaning of the holiday season.
“It helps so (much),” said Solomon Morris, who has volunteered for 12 years. “You’ve got to be there to actually see it. When you take the package out, some of them are less fortunate than yourself and it makes you feel so good inside. This season is all about Jesus, and He said in His book you’ve got to give in order to receive.”
Dorothy Anderson said she looks forward to helping the program every Christmas.
“I just enjoy it,” Anderson said. “When I deliver the boxes to the people, it’s like a glow in their eyes. I enjoy doing it because I just enjoy talking to them. A lot of people don’t get food or clothes or whatever it is they need. It’s a joy watching them receive all this.”
Bates said between 80 and 100 drivers delivered the food this year, and the program continues to grow.
“It’s just phenomenal,” she said. “(Narcisse) spearheads this and gets all of this together. The first year we had about 150 people we helped, and this year we have 600.”
District 1 Dothan City Commissioner James Reading and his wife helped deliver boxes despite his recent knee replacement surgery.
He said Narcisse reminds everyone around her how important it is to help the needy.
“She is so dedicated and she is so persistent,” Reading said. “This is the time to be sharing and giving, and she’s just a wonderful person. People don’t realize there are a lot of families in this city that go to bed with empty bellies.”
Morris said the deliveries are as rewarding for the volunteers as they are for the people receiving them.
“Some of them have nothing for Christmas, but when you bring in the boxes, you ought to see the smiles on their faces,” he said. “It really makes you feel good deep down inside.”
Bates said the food comes from a combination of food drive donations and purchases made by Salvation Army members.
“If I were shut in my house and could not get out, I would want somebody to come and visit me and check to see if I needed anything,” she said. “Some of these folks don’t have families. It’s so very important to find these folks and to be able to help him, because that’s what the Lord would have us to do, to be a minister to people in need.”
Anderson said Christmas should be a reminder that selflessness is a virtue.
“It’s the spirit of giving and not just receiving,” she said. “You should give from the bottom of your heart instead of looking for someone to give to you all the time.”