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Salvation Army Christmas meal boxes make Holidays brighter for 1,400 in Linn County

From Toys for Tots to Christmas meal boxes, the Salvation Army works to make the holiday season brighter for those who are struggling financially.

Every year about 1,400 Christmas meal boxes are sent out to homes around Linn County.

For some residents, such as Gina Lahue, whose only income is her monthly disability check, these meals mean the world.

"Here's one of the teams, the first time I did it," said Lahue, pointing to a picture of her Special Olympics Cheerleading team.

Lahue has struggled with her health over the past ten years, but if there's anything that keeps her spirits high, it's staying involved with Special Olympics and volunteering.

Since Lahue was put on disability, money has been tight.

"It was not a lot at first," said Lahue, "I was like how am I going to pay the rent, how am I going to pay the lights. How am I going to get everything paid? It really does make a difference when I used to have close to a full-time job and then realizing that you are ill and you cannot work."

She pinches every penny she can but when the budget isn't adding up, she turns to the Salvation Army for food assistance.

"People going like, oh, this can of food isn't going to mean much. Oh, it means a lot to someone who is really struggling financially and is food-dependent," said Lahue.

Shalla Ashworth, Director of Development at the Linn County Salvation Army, says it's a situation they see many people in.

"We see a lot of those situations and a lot of them do stem from some medical situations or just trying to stay ahead of bills that keep increasing but the income doesn't always keep increasing," said Ashworth.

For several years Lahue says the Salvation Amry's Christmas meal boxes have given her much needed financial relief.

"Christmas is the struggle," said Lahue, " Usually about this time is when I struggle the most."

The meal box helps Lahue get healthy foods that are often out of her budget.

"Our food boxes are about 40 pounds they're heavy bags of food and they consist of veggies, potatoes, onions," said Ashworth.

Lahue says they go a long way to making her Holiday much brighter.

"When I get those in the food assistance boxes from the Salvation Army I'm going, Yes! It's like I can't afford this but I got it, Yes! I can get this, I can eat this... Perfect," said Lahue.

Every year the Linn County Salvation Army gives out about 1,400 Christmas meal boxes to those in need.

"I am a firm believer that we have all been in low parts in our lives and have needed to ask for help and asking for help is not easy," said Ashworth, "Everybody who comes here, I think, are some of the bravest people in the world because it's hard to just walk in and say, I've got nothing, I need to feed my kids, can you help me?"

The Salvation Army is always looking for volunteers to help with their various programs, especially during the Holidays. To learn more about getting involved or giving back, click here.

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Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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