KNIGHTDALE — Community Helpers distributed coats, toiletries, books, pajamas and Thanksgiving food Saturday with the help of Knightdale High School’s NJROTC, basketball teams and other student groups.
Every year around Thanksgiving, Community Helpers provides food and other needs to families in the Knightdale area.
The group usually distributes turkeys, but distributed gift cards instead this year. Billy Neal, Community Helpers’ president, said they had about $1,500 worth of gift cards to give to people so they could buy a turkey.
At the same time, Neal and his volunteers give out cold-weather clothes, like coats and sweatsuits. This year, they had an overabundance of new children’s pajamas as well.
Neal said Saturday’s distribution served about 200 families.
It was the first year the school was involved with Community Helpers’ annual Thanksgiving basket distribution. Billy Neal, the president of Community Helpers, said he originally just asked to use the building, but students stepped up to volunteer as well.
Usually the group holds their Thanksgiving distribution at the Knightdale pool and clubhouse, but Neal said they’ve outgrown the building and it would become a fire hazard to keep holding it there.
“There’s just such a need,” he said.
Freshmen Maiya Parker and Kiara Belin helped organize a table of women’s clothes Saturday morning. They’re part of the Freshmen Leadership Academy and although volunteering was optional, they said they liked helping the community.
“Knowing that the holidays are coming up, I want to see people happy,” Parker said.
Neal’s own daughter, Jasmine, is a senior at East Wake High School and also came to help.
Jasmine Neal normally helps her dad with other projects and said this one was important for high schoolers because it helps them create a habit of helping community members who need it.
Holiday financial crunch
Earlier this year, Neal made an appeal to Knightdale Town Council for financial assistance. Around the holidays, Community Helpers coordinates more programs and needs help with operational costs.
Neal asked for $2,500. Councilman Mike Chalk pledged $500 of his own money to help Neal as well.
After Thanksgiving, Community Helpers continues to distribute outerwear to those who need it. Neal said his organization usually gives outerwear to about 1,400 families.
As Christmas approaches, the organization prepares to distribute Christmas Cheer baskets to seniors. Neal estimates they distribute between 1,200 and 1,500 baskets.
In addition to extra programs to help with cold weather and holidays, Community Helpers continues to distribute food through their emergency food pantry every Wednesday and Thursday.
Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews