At the six locations of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana, 720 holiday-inspired meals were passed out to families.
A four-way partnership between Strack & Van Til, Miller-Coors, Indiana Beverage, and the numerous Boys & Girls Club branches began seven years ago, when the CEO of Strack & Van Til, Jeff Strack, wanted to do something for the families of the clubs.
He decided to give back in a way he knows best, with a hearty meal. Inside the Strack & Van Til paper bag, a ham, vegetables, pineapple, and a family-sized apple pie were placed, a simple meal for those who need a little extra help during the holiday season.
“All the food comes from Strack,” Brian Fitzgerald, the Chief Operating Offcer of Strack & Van Til, said. “And, we personally hand it out.”
Each company set-up two teams to handle the days’ worth of packing, transporting, and distributing of the meals. The first location was at 2:30 p.m at the Boys and Girls Club in East Chicago, run by Megan Henning.
“They start at 2:30 p.m. and will go to 7:00 p.m. tonight,” Henning said, Development Manager of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana. “They do this every year, just before Christmas time.”
The families at each club receive a voucher to bring to the club to receive the meal. Each location - East Chicago, Hammond, Cedar Lake, Lake Station, Merrillville, and Gary - all received 120 meals for the local families, whose child(s) spends time at the club.
George Douglas, General Manager of Indiana Beverage, helped set up the assembly line of food, which is not a foreign act for him and his associates.
“This is our big thing,” Douglass said. “We do a number of different events during the year, but in terms of actually helping out with and giving meals, this is our biggest one. It fits in our mission statement, to give back to the communities we serve,” he added. “It’s a small meal, but a good one.”
Those working at Miller Coors had the job of transporting the pounds of food to each location, which allowed each volunteer to interact with the families coming through, a benefit according to Chief Account Executive John Sheehan.
“The assembly line is set up and people come through. We wish them ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy Holidays,’ then pack up and leave for the next location,” he described.
Sheehan has personally handed out the food for the last four years, and unfortunately said he’s noticed a rise in the number of families who need the meals. However, he believes this style of distribution – giving people an entire meal to prepare on their own time – rather than serving a hot meal on the spot helps extend the amount of funds and helps a larger amount of people.
As people stream through and bags are being filled, the owners of these companies see the faces of their customers, a rare occurrence when people are dashing through the supermarket.
“This is a privilege, to help the community,” Fitzpatrick said. “The opportunity to partner with these companies is great and the day is a lot of fun. You see the great amount of appreciation and are able to give back to the communities.”