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Embracing cold to help families in need

Need at the Gordon Area Food Shelf is on the rise. Last fall, about 50 families stopped by monthly for food. This year, it's more than doubled to 115 families.

For some, it's a difficult step to take.

Joan Connors, coordinator of the food shelf, which serves residents of Gordon, Wascott and Solon Springs, said many of those who come don't want to ask for the help.

"You can tell they have no choice," she said.

For three years, Jack Haskins has invited the community to help those in need. He started his homeless sleep-outs in 2009 to remind others that "Douglas County doesn't end at Moccasin Mike Road." With a tent full of homemade chili and cookies, a roaring bonfire and a bright light, he beckons to travelers from his yard on the corner of Nyquist Road and Highway 53. Anyone is welcome to drop by for a snack or a chat. Donations of food and cash will be accepted. Every year, his goal is to make it "bigger and better."

Last year's success may be hard to top, though. Haskins collected 592 pounds of food and $1,124 in cash during the 2011 event. His employer, Ferrellgas, offered to match any funds collected. Instead Ferrellgas CEO Steve Wambolt more than tripled it, sending an additional check for $3,500.

"Isn't that awesome?" Connors said. The money helped stock the food shelf for nearly five months.

With the increased need, Haskins is hoping everyone steps up to donate again this year. He also invites anyone to spend the night out in the yard with him, his son Austin and their friends.

Connors said she appreciates the enthusiasm Haskins puts into the sleep-out.

"It's a big job, but I think he likes it," she said.

Local businesses Campbell Lumber, Dahlberg Light and Power, and United Rentals have donated wood and a light plant for the event, which runs dusk Friday through noon Saturday. Donations of cash and food will be accepted.

Haskins said he will also collect toys for Lakeview Lodge, which distributes toys through Operation Rudolph to children in the Solon Springs area.

The Gordon Area Food Shelf is open from 9 a.m. to noon every Wednesday. The building is located behind the Gordon Town Hall. For information, call 715- 376-4798.