PUBLISHED: 12:23 PM on Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Food basket tradition continues with friend's help

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Rita Hamilton, left, named the Christmas Dinner Project after her friend Racheal MacLeod, who started the annual food drive.
It may take hours of work to wrap boxes, shop for food and coordinate volunteers, but delivering boxes to Juneau families in need is priceless.

Racheal MacLeod says she knows what's its like to get a food box at Christmas.

"When I was young, we were a less fortunate family and we used to get food boxes at Christmas time. It was embarrassing and wonderful all at the same time," MacLeod said. "I know it must have taken some of the pressure off my folks at Christmas time."

By 1996, when MacLeod was in a position to help others, she started a Christmas Dinner Project in Juneau.

That year, MacLeod asked her fellow members of the Juneau Yacht Club for money to buy food for Christmas meals.

"I started shopping for good deals and the first year we had 53 boxes. That was really exciting to me," MacLeod said. "It was ... how do I explain it? ... it just did something to my heart. It filled my heart."

MacLeod managed every phase of the project, including shopping, boxing and wrapping. By 2002, the group distributed more than 300 dinner boxes. But after that, as the project had gotten to be too much for one person, MacLeod retired.

Her longtime friend Rita Hamilton took over for MacLeod.

"I was thrilled that someone took it over and that it was Rita. That was kind of special that it would carry on," MacLeod said. "It just got way too big for me. It is nice to see the project continuing one way or another because the need is always there."

Hamilton said for the project to continue, she needs more donors. She said $50 buys the food for one box. Currently, Hamilton has money to fill 200 boxes, but would like to be able to purchase 300.

"Things are hard right now because everyone has been asked to give after the hurricanes and things going on, but there are still needs here," Hamilton said.

Hamilton shops for and orders the food and volunteers from Reach decorate the boxes.

After the boxes are filled, they are distributed local social services agencies, such as the Glory Hole and Salvation Army, for distribution to those who have asked to receive a box.

"We just put them together and send them out to be delivered," Hamilton said.

To make a donation, call Hamilton at 780-5888 or make a deposit to the Racheal MacLeod Christmas Dinner Project Fund at Alaska Pacific Bank.