Monticello Lions fill food baskets for needy

Monticello Lions Club members have a simple operating philosophy when putting together annual Christmas food baskets for the needy-the more meals, the merrier.
This year, 340 baskets were provided to area families and individuals. The Lions used a unique assembly line approach Saturday, Dec. 8, to put the holiday baskets together.
“Our philosophy is not just to have one meal,” said Larry Kounkle, long-time Lion and former Club president whose service also includes being a district governor.
According to Kounkle, two boxes filled with food and meal items actually make up a complete Monticello Lions Christmas basket. “If it’s a family, they get a gallon of milk, a 10 or 12-pound turkey, a dozen eggs, five pounds of potatoes, oranges, a pie, butter and many other ingredients to make more than one complete meal,” he said.
About 40 Lions Club members and 35 to 40 people from the Monticello community gathered at 8 a.m. at Dahlheimer Beverage, LLC last Saturday to assemble the baskets.
“We started at 8 a.m. and by 10 we had done the 340 boxes,”  Kounkle said, adding that the use of Dahlheimer’s local distribution facility makes the basket production process a smooth task. “It works out nicely,” he said. “They make tables from pallets, and people on the lines go along with boxes and fill them.”
Most of the groceries that are included in the Monticello Lions Club Christmas baskets come from Cub Foods, Kounkle said. General Mills is another corporate provider to the holiday project. “This year, each basket contained two to three boxes of cookie or brownie mix or other deserts,” he said. “That helps, because those getting the baskets and make other goodies with those materials.” Lion Clint Herbst did a tally and estimated each basket produced has a $70 value, Kounkle said.
“The United Way of Monticello gave us $10,000 to help cover the cost,” Kounkle said. “The total bill for the basket project is between $20,000 and $25,000.”
When the Lions originally started the Christmas basket project, they delivered between 75 to 100 baskets to area homes. “That got to be quite a hassle, so we developed alphabetical, scheduled pick-up times according to last name. That really helps. We call people ahead of time, and the come during their set time.”
Kounkle said Christmas food basket recipients are highly appreciative as well as polite and courteous when the arrive at Dahlheimer’s to pick up their baskets.
“They patiently wait their turn,” he said. “They are so appreciative of what they are given. It makes you feel so good. Basically, the only difference between the single and the family baskets is Inclusion of ham instead of a turkey, and some of the larger items are removed. The singles get a change out of ingredients.”