Lights display thrills

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Reynolds Farm Equipment gives donations to local food pantry

By Nancy Edwards

Each Christmas season, thousands of Hamilton County residents flock to Reynolds Farm Equipment in Fishers, but they’re not in line to buy a John Deer tractor as a gift.

For the past 21 years, Reynolds Farm Equipment, 12501 Reynolds Dr., has had a Christmas lights display on their grounds. What started out as a single decorated tractor has grown to an entire Christmas village in recent years, complete with the town of Bethlehem, a country church and a donkey that is gradually moved closer and closer to the manger in “Bethlehem” until Christmas Eve approaches.

Mac and Arlene Reynolds took ownership of Reynolds Farm Equipment in 1955; their kids worked there when they were old enough, and several of Mac and Arlene’s grandkids also work in the store, including Michael Lawson, 45.

Lawson said after the first year of displaying their first decorated tractor, “several customers said ‘that’s neat, you should do more.’”

Several employees of the store took an active role in building the village a little bit more each year, adding reindeers, a Santa Claus, and a Christmas train. Generations of families continue to enjoy the lights every year.

“We had people (years ago) bring in their 10-year-old kids and now those kids are grown and are bringing their kids,” Lawson said.

There is still a child at heart that can’t wait for the lights to begin, even months in advance: Lawson’s grandmother, Arlene, 94.

“I was talking to her in August and she asked:  ‘So, have they started on the lights yet?’ “Christmas is huge to her,” Lawson said.

The first lit object that passengers notice the most, according to Lawson, is the cross, which his grandparents wanted to include.

“I’ve heard more humbling stories about the cross; a woman told me she comes home from working the late shift every night, passes the cross, and said it’s inspiring to her that there’s still good (in the world). That’s bigger than any of us. It’s what inspires and gives people hope.”

Driving through the popular village to see the lights has always been free, although, according to Lawson, “People began saying they would like to contribute to the lights display.”

The offers to contribute to the lights were turned down, however, Lawson and other employees began collaborating ideas to use voluntary donations for a charity. In 2009 they found an answer: Fishers Come to Me Food Pantry.

The pantry is located in a building directly behind Fishers United Methodist Church, 9690 E. 116th St., which offered the building to Fishers Come to Me. The pantry relies on donations to keep their shelves stocked with canned and other nonperishable items. Freezers are filed with various types of meat. Bread is also available, as well as breakfast items. In addition, guests of the food pantry may take bags of various food combinations with recipe ideas attached.

As well, shelves are stocked with various hygiene items, including shampoo, deodorant and laundry detergent. Pots of brightly colored flowers are also donated.

When the food pantry started five years ago, some residents did not understand the purpose, according to Don Greenlee, a volunteer, and Linda Williams, director of Fishers Come to Me Food Pantry. Because Hamilton County does not appear to have a poverty problem on the surface, doubts were risen about the need for providing a pantry.

After conducting research, “We found a lot of people in need,” Greenlee said. “We started with a few families coming, and now we’re close to 300 a month. Since 2007 through last month, we’ve given away over 2.2 million pounds of food.”

About 60 percent of pantry items go toward residents of Noblesville, 25 percent go toward Fishers homes and the rest are distributed to those residents in need who live in Carmel, Sheridan, Cicero and Atlanta.

Approximately 60 volunteers work each week. Their assignments may include picking up donated food from local stores, stocking shelves, providing free tutoring for children or serving as advocates for families and their needs. The average family size is four people, however, there are also multiple generations with up to 14 people living under the same roof.

Each Wednesday, with the exception of the fifth Wednesday in a month, clients may pick up what they need. The average family picks up about 65 pounds of food to last about a month.

Sometimes, clients simply want someone to pray for them or know that someone cares.

“One day, a woman just wanted to talk and have someone be there for her,” Williams said. “It makes a big different to have someone to listen to them.”

About the food pantry– Linda Williams, director of the volunteer-run Come to Me Food Pantry, gives credit to the many volunteers who serve and raise money for food. “We’ve received almost 30,000 pounds of food in the past six weeks,” she said. A number of schools in the southeastern district, though food drives, have helped tremendously, including Hamilton Southeastern High School, which donated 10,000 pounds of collected food. “They do a bang-up job,” Williams said. “It’s good to see youth doing something positive.” Williams also noted appreciation for the efforts of the Boy Scouts and the Good Samaritan Network.

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