BY CAROL ROEHM
DANVILLE — The Danville Salvation Army’s food pantry is brimming with hams, chicken and canned goods.
These are the leftovers from holiday food baskets that were requested by area families but curiously weren’t claimed a few days before Christmas.
This year, at least 900 families signed up to receive food baskets — more than the 843 households that signed up last year.
Of those households, 300 were adopted by churches, local businesses and a police benevolence group that provided the food for the baskets.
The Salvation Army at 855 E. Fairchild St., a United Way of Danville Area agency, purchased food and prepared 600 food baskets for the remaining families. Each food basket included a ham or chicken depending on the size of the family and all the ingredients for a holiday feast.
Caseworker Karen Kirby said only 400 families picked up their food basket on the Dec. 20 distribution date, leaving 200 food baskets unclaimed.
Kirby said the police benevolent group and local churches reported a similar scenario with food baskets being left behind.
“The police benevolent group made food baskets for 125 families but only 100 were picked up,” she said.
After being left with so many food baskets, the Salvation Army began giving them away on Dec. 21 and Dec. 24.
“It was on a first come, first served basis. We gave them to whoever needed them,” Kirby said.
On those two days, 29 food baskets were given away.
“We gave out what we could,” Kirby said. “Everyone who wanted a Christmas dinner got it.”
Now that Christmas is past, the food baskets have been dismantled and the food has ended up in the Salvation Army’s food pantry, which is open 1:30-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays.
“We have several hams and canned goods,” Kirby said. “We have plenty of food left over, so they’ll have something for New Year’s, too.”
“We have chicken for smaller families, and ham for the larger families,” she added.
Still, Kirby can’t figure out why so much food went unclaimed.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “We called them and we sent out letters to remind them.”
Some of those letters, however, came back undeliverable because the family no longer lived at the address they gave at signups.
When families signed up for the food baskets, they also signed up to receive toys for their children through Toys for Tots, which were distributed in mid-December.
“They got their kids’ toys and that’s all,” Kirby lamented, adding that she wished families would have indicated that they didn’t want a food basket or would be out of town during the food basket distribution time.
“We spent about $3,000 in hams,” she said.
The Salvation Army’s food pantry, 855 E. Fairchild St., is open 1:30-3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.