If you were to base such conclusions on television ads, Christmas went commercial a long time ago.
And while most families can’t afford to exchange gifts as over the top as brand-new automobiles festooned with enormous bows parked in the driveway as part of some “December to Remember” promotion, many of us always get more than enough for the holidays. More than we want, and certainly much more than we need.
The simple joys of the season easily could be drowned out by the constant exhortations to buy, buy, buy.
That’s why when you hear about giving — truly giving — instead of getting, it really attracts your attention. And it warms the heart to know that a “pay it forward” spirit is still alive and well here in St. Mary’s County.
Mike Schwartz owns a successful bicycle shop on Great Mills Road in Lexington Park. Back in February 1983, he lost everything he owned in a house fire. That year, he said, he was helped out by the local Salvation Army unit. As a way of showing his gratitude for the kindness that was shown to him, he bought and delivered 11 turkeys and all the fixings for Christmas dinners for some area families.
That was the beginning of Mike’s Food Fund, and it has done a lot of good since.
Three years ago, Schwartz and his merry band of volunteers gave away a record-high 1,953 turkey baskets for Christmas. Last year, that number was down a bit to 1,600, but Schwartz knows that doesn’t mean it’s because there are fewer people in need. It just means we all need to get the word out. And he said last week he’s aiming to dole out a new record of 2,000 holiday meals for this year’s annual event.
For families who would like to receive a Christmas dinner basket, contact the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services at 301-475-4200, ext. 71680, to be placed on a list right away so that no one is left out. Mike’s Food Fund works hand in hand with the department’s Christmas Caring program and Toys for Tots. It’s free of charge, and there is no obligation other than to call.
Of course, the need goes on — and so does the need for volunteers. Schwartz continues to take donations of all types to help the program.
If you would like to donate food, drop it off at Mike’s Bikes. The food will be used both to fill the holiday baskets and also for local food pantries. Baskets given out generally include a whole turkey, cans of corn, green beans, cranberry sauce and a 10-pound bag of potatoes.
Those who want to donate can mail a check made out to Mike’s Food Fund, 21310 Great Mills Road, Suite C, Lexington Park, MD 20653. Schwartz says a $20 donation can feed one family for Christmas. Donations of money are used to buy turkeys, canned goods and potatoes.
And for those who want to help distribute the Christmas dinner baskets, Schwartz is mobilizing that effort in just a couple of weeks. To volunteer to give out baskets the week of Dec. 16 to 20, come to Zion Methodist Church on Route 235, south of Naval Air Station Patuxent River’s Gate 2, starting at 4 p.m. “until we run out of turkeys” on any of those days, Schwartz said. For directions to the church or more information, call 301-863-5161. And to help deliver baskets on Dec. 21, 22 or 23, come to The Mission on Great Mills Road from 3 to 7 p.m. any of those days. For directions to The Mission or more information, call 240-587-0517.
You can also call Mike’s Bikes at 301-863-7887 for more information about donating or volunteering, or any other aspect of the program.
Schwartz’s concern for others was — and continues to be — a direct response to how he was cared for 36 years ago in his most critical time of need.
Matching the needs of others by thoughtful giving is always in step with the holiday spirit, and nothing makes the season brighter than tapping into its true and deepest meaning. So please help if you can.