Over 400 community members tossed ham, cranberry sauce, rice, juice, cookie dough, noodles, cornbread mix, beans, potatoes, green beans, peaches and more into boxes that were delivered to families in need in East Texas Saturday at the Community Food Drive at the Brookshire Brothers Warehouse.

This food drive has been a community tradition since it was started in 1999 by the late Rev. Bettie Kennedy, when she pastored Collins Chapel CME Church. That year the drive ensured 50 families were fed. It’s grown each year, and the goal this year is to reach 2,000 families.

“A box is designed to feed a family of four to six people,” Kennedy’s son, Keith, said. “So if we give out 2,00 boxes this year, we are going to reach potentially 8,000 people. That will be a blessing. When I think about that, it just blows my mind.”

Keith said if his mother was able to be at the event, she would be walking around talking to each person and asking how they are doing.

“She was an amazing person and communicator,” he said. “She would be so happy to see what is happening here.”

“We are proud to continue this effort in her remembrance,” said Bruce Love, food drive volunteer.

He said each box contained 26 items that will reach residents from all walks of life in East Texas, including Zavalla, Hudson, Lufkin, Diboll, Nacogdoches, Kennard and Garrison.

Keith said many of the volunteers at the event, have been given boxes in the past and felt the necessity to help others in need.

“To me, this is Thanksgiving in action,” Keith said. “The people here who are serving are a blessing to someone else. But what they may not realize is that the person they are serving is a blessing to them. This is a wonderful interaction between people, an amazing act of truly giving.”

About 25 helping hands came from the children’s ministry from Southside Baptist Church. “We volunteer every year,” Tara Robbins, of Southside, said. “Missions is a huge part of Southside. We want to get them started helping and giving to others.”

Addison Robbin, 6, a member of the children’s ministry, placed canned goods in the boxes as they traveled down the assembly line.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Addison said. “I’m so glad I came to help.”

Malia Robertson, 10, of Lufkin, carried boxes down the assembly line, pausing as each canned good and treat was placed inside. “I wanted to come today because it gives people food,” she said with a smile. “I want everybody to have a full belly on Thanksgiving.”

Donations are being accepted for next year’s drive. To donate, make the check payable to the Community Food Drive and mail it to 1508 S. First St., Lufkin TX, 75901. The 501(c)(3) Tax ID is 84-1628431.

Stephanie Stevens’ email address is