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Community comes together to help others

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On Tuesday, nearly 500 meals were distributed during the culmination of the annual Fight Against Hunger Games event.

The Thanksgiving meal kit giveaway took place at the Byxbe Campus on state Route 521, and for the first hour of the event, cars in line for meals stretched down the road.

Event organizer Karen Wadkins, who serves as fiscal coordinator for the Delaware County Juvenile and Probate Court, said the event had an “incredible turnout” after various government agencies, community partners, school districts and businesses donated food to the event.

“We worked so hard, so much has gone into this,” Wadkins said, adding she appreciated all of the “wonderful partners” who got involved this year.

However, Wadkins said the large turnout of the event highlights the struggle and need within the community.

“I need people to see that there’s need,” Wadkins said. “I’m thankful to be able to help, but I want to help more. … I bought my son out and his best friend because they’ve been a part of the community, and I want to share it with them. I want them to take this to their high school next year and be passionate about doing better and doing more. I love this event, and I love sharing it with people.”

Wadkins said there were many new volunteers at the event who helped load groceries into vehicles, and she hopes the event was eye opening for them.

“We’ve got some first time turkey throwers here, and I hope they take this back to their own office, agencies and schools,” she said.

Wadkins said she hopes the event will continue to grow, and the goal will be increasing the quantity of the meal kits without decreasing the quality.

Hayes High School Principal Dr. Ric Stranges has been part of the event since its inception and was directing traffic and food distribution during the event. He said he enjoys the event and how it brings so many organizations together.

“I look forward to this event every year,” Stranges said. “Not only to help our families and our community, but to see the faces of gratitude and blessing. Every year, they glow when they see us. Everyone working together in concert has really made this an event the community counts on.”

Delaware County Juvenile and Probate Judge David Hejmanowski, who has also been part of Fight Against Hunger Games since it began, said the event is important to many people in the community.

“The reality is it puts folks in a better position as we enter the holiday season,” he said. “(The event) has just grown since (it began), entirely due to Karen (Wadkins). It’s grown and so has the need. Clearly this year, given inflation and where folks are, the need has been very high.”

Hejmanowski said the event is one of his favorite days of the year, and he’s happy to see so many organizations come together.

Delaware County Domestic Relations Judge Randall Fuller has been volunteering at the event for years and said the large turnout at the event on Tuesday was “good and bad.”

“It’s great to be able to help so many people but it’s sad to see how many people need an extra meal,” Fuller said. “It’s a great event for Delaware County. I love how all the different offices and agencies take part in this.”

Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities Superintendent Kristine Hodge has been volunteering and distributing meals for almost as long as the event has been running. She said the event is a “true collaboration” between all the community organizations.

“It’s amazing to see how it comes together,” Hodge said. “(The board takes part in this event because) this is our community. We’re an integral part of our community, and we always want to be a part of giving back. We are so fortunate that we have public support in so many ways. This is one opportunity to give back to the people of Delaware County. This is one of the greatest community collaborations. We’re so fortunate to be a part of it.”

The event was the first for Delaware County Commissioner Gary Merrell, who said he wished he’d gotten involved sooner.

“It feels great. I’m honored to be part of this,” Merrell said. “We live in a great county. Being able to help those in a tough situation, it says something about Delaware County. It says something about the situation people are finding themselves in, through no fault of their own. We’ve got to get through this and in Delaware County, we’ve got to take care of our own. (This event) works because everybody is involved.”

Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Cox and Delaware County Sheriff’s Office therapy dog Otto carry food to a vehicle being loaded by Delaware County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge David Hejmanowski Tuesday afternoon.

Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities Director of Communications & Community Engagement Chase Waits carries a bag of groceries to a vehicle during the food giveaway Tuesday.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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