Sandwich Christmas tradition began with one man's generosity

SANDWICH – What began as one man’s charitable action has become a way for the entire Sandwich community to come together to help those in need during the Christmas season.

The Franklin Mall Christmas Project started in 1954, when Franklin Mall decided to help the less fortunate by delivering groceries to their houses for Christmas dinner.  On Christmas Eve, Mall personally delivered cheer baskets with fresh fruit to senior citizens who were shut-in or alone for the holiday. As time went on, Mall, along with his wife and children, worked with the Sandwich community each year to collect food for the Christmas boxes and deliver them to families.

When Mall’s health began to deteriorate, the Sandwich Lions Club took over the project. Mall’s grandson, Kyle Wallis, is a member of the Lions Club. Wallis and his family continue the project that his grandfather started almost 60 years ago.

“When you take the boxes and see their faces, you know that you’re doing the right thing, paying it forward,” Wallis said.

Last year, the Christmas project collected and delivered more than 250 food boxes and 400 cheer baskets to those in need in the Sandwich community. The food boxes include nonperishable food and a gift card to Art’s Food Market in Sandwich. The cheer baskets include homemade cookies and candy and are hand-delivered by Santa.

The project is run entirely by volunteers. In addition to the people who donate, a small army of volunteers collect, organize, and deliver donations. Indian Valley Vocational Center’s fire science class will spend the last week of the semester’s class sorting donations and assembling the grocery boxes. No offer of help, no matter how small, goes unnoticed, co-chair Karen Spangler said.

“(Volunteering is) a gesture; just saying that they haven’t been forgotten during the holidays,” she said.

The Lions Club recently updated its list for referrals, and is accepting names for recipients of food boxes and cheer baskets until Saturday, Dec. 21.

Michele Farley, the Lions Club chairperson of the grocery project, stressed the importance of letting the club know of people in the community who may need the extra help the project provides.

“We depend on the community to physically help, but also to give us referrals,” she said.

If you know a family or individual who lives within the Sandwich school district and is in need of groceries or a box of Christmas cheer this holiday, call Farley at 815-786-8086 before Saturday.

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