Holiday meals support local agencies
Agencies benefit from holiday food from Ozarks Food Harvest
Without the help of a local agency, domestic violence survivor Kelli Neel said she wasn’t sure how she would have made it through another week—let alone the holiday season.
After seventeen years of marriage and unrelenting domestic cruelty, Kelli made the difficult decision to seek refuge from her alcoholic and abusive husband. In late 2005, she and her two children arrived at Christos House in West Plains.
“It was so comforting to have a safe place to go,” she said. “Christos House was our life jacket, and it helped us put our lives back together.”
Kelli immediately recognized that with the help of the shelter, she and her children would have plenty of food, clothing and warm beds to sleep in for as long as they needed.
When the holidays arrived, they enjoyed special meals and the supportive community. “It was the first holiday we had that was actually peaceful,” she shared.
Kelli and her children spent six months at Christos House recovering, receiving legal aid and planning for their future. After getting back on her feet, she began volunteering at the shelter, eventually taking on a full-time role on staff.
As the current shelter supervisor, Kelli ensures that women and their children who come to the facility feel safe and valued as they recover from domestic trauma. She also works with Ozarks Food Harvest to make sure the shelter is stocked with nutritious food for daily meals.
“We consider the team at Ozarks Food Harvest part of our family. They’re just down the road and over the hill,” she expressed.
Christos House currently receives food from Ozarks Food Harvest once a month, and the shelter also takes part in The Food Bank’s Retail Pick-Up Program. Residents share cooking duties with the shelter’s food advocate. As a team, they decide on meals each week and divide up kitchen responsibilities.
“For some of the women, having the chance to cook a special meal during the holiday season is so comforting,” Kelli said. “Many of them have bad memories involving holiday meals, so this gives them a chance to find peace in the kitchen again.”
Ozarks Food Harvest, along with a network of community partners that support Christos House, gives the families a chance to make new, joyful memories in the kitchen while preparing them for life after the shelter.
Upon leaving Christos House, each family receives a box of food. As mothers work to find housing or jobs, they don’t need to worry about what they will feed their children for dinner.
Sheila, a domestic violence survivor, shared, “When I stayed at Christos House back in 2012, I was worried about having to buy my own food. But thanks to the donors, I never went hungry.”
With the new warehouse addition, Ozarks Food Harvest looks forward to providing more meals for agencies like Christos House and continues to work toward its goal of closing the meal gap.
Kelli is hopeful about the future of hunger relief in the Ozarks. “Hunger shouldn’t exist in our community. We all have to work together and do what we can to help eliminate it,” she shared.
Together, we can help provide food, peace and hope to those who are struggling in our community.