By Sean Barron
The combination of tough economic times and the holidays often adds up to a greater number of people in need.
That is the main message behind the Big Reach Center of Hope’s “Hope for the Holidays 2011” campaign, which kicked off Wednesday at the center, 11767 Lisbon Road here.
The campaign is an outreach initiative that lists supplying food, toys and clothing to regional families in need during the holidays as its main goal.
The effort also intends to increase awareness of the greater need for food, clothing and other donations during the holidays.
In addition, the campaign serves as a vehicle for the center to foster new and maintain ongoing support and partnerships with local businesses throughout the year, its mission statement says.
The 22,000-square-foot, 5-year-old facility is a distribution center that provides food, clothing, furniture and spiritual guidance to a monthly average of 1,300 low-income and underserved families, most in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, Stark and Portage counties, noted Scott Lewis, director.
Between today and Dec. 15, food, clothing and toys will be distributed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and 2 to 8 p.m. Thursdays to those who meet certain eligibility requirements.
During Wednesday’s gathering and facility tour, Lewis discussed six “Avenues of Hope” programs designed to further reach out to those in need during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
He also praised Big Reach’s partners and hundreds of volunteers for their contributions and service, but lamented that 2011 has been particularly difficult for the center, mainly because of the economy and greater number of people in need.
“This past year has been the biggest challenge for us,” he said, adding that one of the center‘s greatest needs is nonperishable foods such as canned vegetables. “The need is growing greater and greater. Mahoning Valley, we need your help.”
In addition, Big Reach’s back-to-school event this year provided school supplies to more than 1,000 children, noted the Rev. Sean Kelly, pastor of Greenford Christian Church, one of the facility’s partners.
“The Big Reach Center of Hope has had a huge impact on our community,” he said.
Also offering remarks at the event were Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti; Joe Mineo, owner of Something New Florists of Canfield; and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th.
The center will be closed Dec. 19 to Jan. 3 for the holidays, but will open at 4 p.m. Jan. 5 to distribute food, Lewis said.