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New local group offering free meal for financially needy in community

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 10:28 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 10:51 a.m. CST

As most folks gear up for Thanksgiving and all the holiday includes — a few lazy days off watching football, eating too much turkey and shopping in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday — some struggle financially even to provide the smallest of celebrations for their families. Some may not even have the luxury of celebrating at all because they have no home.

In the spirit of the holiday season and giving back to those less fortunate, a new local group called Newton — A Community United is sponsoring a free Thanksgiving meal for Jasper County families in serious financial need.

“A lot of us members at the Elks go to the homeless shelter in Des Moines and feed them on the holidays, and last year we did a coat drive ... and took coats and clothes to the Central Iowa Homeless Shelter,” said group member and meal organizer LeAnn Karsten. “When we collected those items we had a lot of people ask if we could do something like that in Newton, so we decided to keep it in Newton this year.”

The meal will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday at the Newton Elks Lodge, 111 E. Second St. S., and will include a full traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey, ham and all the trimmings. The group also will be providing needy families with gently used clothing and coats, personal care items such as hats, gloves, underwear, toothbrushes and toothpaste and non-perishable food baskets.

“We went out to local businesses and had them sponsor a T-shirt and then we sold the T-shirts ... and we used that money as well as cash donations that we’ve received in the community to purchase the items,” Karsten said. “All the clothing and coats came from people in the community.”

Donations of clothing, coats, non-perishable food items and baked goods still are being accepted at the lodge, as the group is planning on serving about 400 people for Thanksgiving in addition to still collecting items for the Central Iowa Homeless Shelter. As far as volunteers for the event, Karsten thinks they’re covered.

“A lot of us and our families are all part of it, so it’s been a really good experience with our families to teach our children to give to others. It’s something we all have really enjoyed,” Karsten said.

“It’s just important to me that people know that the Newton Elks Lodge members are coming together to provide for the community. It’s been a really neat experience as far as the amount of people in the community who want to pitch in. It just shows how tight-knit our community really is when it comes down to it. People are understanding with what the town has been through, that people are in need.”

For more information, contact Karsten at (641) 275-2001.

Amy Martens can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 426 or via email at amartens@newtondailynews.com.