For the past 72 years, a local project has helped ensure people in need have a way to buy food at Christmastime.

The generosity of Jackson County residents has resulted in more than $10,000 being raised each of the past couple of years for the Christmas Basket Fund.

That allows for $50 Jay C Food Stores gift cards to be distributed to less-fortunate people in the area whose applications are approved.

“We really help a lot of people locally in need,” said Carl VonDielingen, chairman of the Christmas Basket Fund. “There are a lot of families that can really use the food for Christmas.”

This marks his eighth year of being chairman, and he is just as excited about it today as he was at the beginning.

“It’s just something I can do to give back to the community,” he said. “Since I’ve been retired, I can take time out. It’s quite a chore, actually.”

The fund was started in 1945 by veterans returning home to Seymour and Jackson County from World War II to provide food for area families at Christmas.

Originally, the fund served those in need in Seymour, but it later was expanded to include all of Jackson County.

The 73rd year of the project is sponsored by American Legion Post 89 in Seymour in partnership with Jay C Food Stores, JCB and The Tribune.

Early donations include $250 from Jackson Lodge 146, Free & Accepted Masons, and $100 from Order of Eastern Star, Seymour chapter 134.

All donations may be mailed to or dropped off at American Legion Post 89, The Tribune or any branch of JCB.

Businesses, corporations, service groups, churches, individuals or families may donate, VonDielingen said. Donors may contribute anonymously if they choose and may dedicate their donations to others. Donors and their dedications are published daily in The Tribune.

In order to receive one of the gift cards, people must live in Jackson County and submit a letter stating their need for assistance. Requests should be mailed to American Legion Basket Fund, P.O. Box 566, Seymour, IN 47274.

There is a limit of one gift card per person and one per address, VonDielingen said. Requests that list a post office box address will not be accepted.

“Our economy seems to be better this year, so we’re hoping more businesses and individuals can afford to donate,” VonDielingen said.

Jackson County residents should submit a letter stating their need for assistance and mail it to American Legion Basket Fund, P.O. Box 566, Seymour, IN 47274.

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