The holidays are a good time to spend time with family and friends, but they’re also a great time to offer a hand to those in need.
And, in Lakewood, there are plenty of ways to help.
There are a number of organizations — including the Lakewood Community Services Center and the Lakewood Charitable Assistance Corporation — and several hot meals in Lakewood looking to help out needy Lakewood families.
And there’s no shortage of those.
According to the 2011 US Census data, more than 17 percent of Lakewood's population is below the poverty line. That’s high, compared with the state average, at 14.8 percent.
The recession hasn’t helped.
“There’s just so many people coming through,” said Trish Rooney, the director of Lakewood Community Services Center. “I mean, we’re serving 3,000 people a month.”
LCSC provides a variety of services to Lakewood’s neediest residents.
Rooney recently told Lakewood Patch that by the end of the year, the organization will finish with 10,000 “unduplicated” clients, who each stop at the center an average of four times per year.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “It’s about 20 percent of the population of the city.”
Rooney said that 66 percent of the clients have an income of less than $10,000 per year.
“How can you make it on that?” she said.
(To make a holiday donation to LCSC, visit the organization’s website)
Scott Ernst, who volunteers with two hot meal programs in Lakewood, said that the Lakewood United Methodist Church was going to cancel its “Fourth Tuesday” meal because it landed on Christmas.
Then, volunteers decided that’s exactly why the hot meal should remain open.
“Some people stepped forward to put it on — so it’s going to happen,” he said, adding that as many as 110 people rely on that hot meal each fourth Tuesday of the month.
The doors at Lakewood United Methodist Church will open at 5:30 p.m. on Christmas with the meal served at 6 p.m.
“In the spirit of the holidays, it will go on,” Ernst said.
Organizers are still working out the details, but a “traditional Christmas dinner” will be offered.
Ernst said he’s noticed a spike in the number of people needed assistance during the past few years.
“The recession hit everybody,” he said. “All walks of life.”
The Lakewood Charitable Assistance Corp is giving away 100 turkey dinners to Lakewood’s needy residents for Christmas — just as it did for Thanksgiving.
And that’s not all.
Each year, the Lakewood City Schools partner with LCAC to collect food and distribute holiday food bags to Lakewood families.
"We were overwhelmed with the generosity of Lakewood students and volunteers for the Thanksgiving distribution,” said LCAC president, John Hunter, in a statement.
"Now we need to do it again on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15, for the Christmas distribution."
The organization has hosted a food drop-off at the schools since Thanksgiving.
On Friday, students from across the city — including members of student council and H2O — are expected to meet at the Lakewood Masonic Temple to sort and bag the food.
Then on Saturday, a “volunteer army” will form a human chain and help to fill the bags that will then be distributed that day to 300 families in Lakewood.
Want to volunteer?
The organizers need help today collecting and sorting food items from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., of 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Lakewood Masonic Temple.
Or, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, those interested in volunteering can distribute food to those in need.