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Christmas in the Barn cancellation to have direct impact on Food and Resource Center

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
Volunteers sort through items at the Food and Resource Center of South Central Oklahoma.

Christmas in the Barn, an annual holiday market held in Marietta, will not be returning this year in order to protect the health of its customers. 

The cancellation will directly affect the Food and Resource Center of South Central Oklahoma as the event is normally a primary source of non-perishable food given to the nonprofit organization during the holiday season. 

Lee Toztke and Donnie Minyard have been organizing the two-day market for nearly 12 years now, but with numbers of infections from COVID-19 continuing to rise, Toztke said they made the tough decision to cancel the market this year. 

The event typically doubles as a canned food drive for the Food and Resource Center since admission is free. Customers are asked to bring canned foods in place of admission to help give back. “That was the hardest part was going to tell James, the director, that we were not going to be hosting it this year,” Toztke said. 

Totzke said he and Minyard originally chose the Food and Resource Center to support after stopping in for a visit several years ago. While at the center, Totzke said he noticed a single mother come in with two children and he could tell they were very much in need. 

“The little boy after a while said, ‘Momma, can I have some food? I’m hungry’. Right then I decided this is who I wanted to work for,” Totzke said. “I have seen the friendliness and the professionalism that our food pantry there in Ardmore handles and I think they are doing an absolutely excellent job.”

The Food and Resource Center provides over 1.5 million pounds of food to thousands of Southcentral Oklahomans struggling with hunger each year. 

Food and Resource Center Director James Rosson said they received more than a ton of food and over $2,000 in monetary donations through Christmas in the Barn last year. “It affects us, no question about it,” Rosson said. “It hurts, but we’ll make it, we’ll still give out a lot of food — but it is sure nice to have that extra stuff.”

During the holiday season in November, Rosson said the resource center typically serves more than 1,500 families and individuals, and 1,200 to 1,300 in December. Food pantries across the country are normally a little more strained during the holiday season. “The food pantry really hurts at that time of year,” Totzke said. 

Rosson said the Food and Resource Center will still have canned goods to hand out, but the variety will not be like before. So far this year, it will be mostly corn, green beans and some carrots. “That’s why that drive is so important to us to give us a variety of things to give out to our guests,” Rosson said. 

The Ardmore area has had several food drives and has access to fresh vegetables, dairy, protein and more through the Farmers to Families food box program carried out by Impact Ardmore during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most part, this has kept the numbers of people needing food assistance at the Food and Resource Center around normal. 

“When that ends, I expect our numbers to really explode,” Rosson said. While the numbers have remained about the same, Rosson said the Food and Resource Center has seen an increase in first time shoppers since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. 

Many of these customers are newly unemployed or on furlough. “Some of those will end up being permanent shoppers with us and some of those, once the job gets back, they may not need us anymore,” Rosson said. “But we always tell them ‘We’re here. Even if you don’t need us now, if you hit another bump down the road, we’re here, come see us’.” 

Rosson said this holiday season could potentially be busier than previous seasons. To help in the absence of Christmas in the Barn, Totzke and Minyard have started a campaign for the Food and Resource Center and are asking their shoppers to donate. 

They started the campaign by donating $1,000 to the food bank and have been receiving donations of anywhere between $5 and $100 since. “We’ve got a very, very giving community,” Totzke said.

The Food and Resource Center needs donations of canned goods more than anything else. “They’ve got connections where they’re getting fresh food, but they desperately need canned goods,” Totzke said. 

Rosson said anyone can donate to the Food and Resource Center, located at 801 Hailey Street in Ardmore, at any time. Individuals are encouraged to call ahead at (580) 798-2293 before donating. The Food and Resource Center serves individuals in Carter, Love, Murray and Johnston Counties and is open four days a week, 16 hours a week.

“We can take one can or a pile of cans, it doesn’t matter how big or small the donation is, it all helps us,” Rosson said. “The general thing that I want people to know is that we’re here. If you need us, come see us.” 

Totzke said he and Minyard are thankful to have the support of the community and hope to return once more next year. 

“I cannot thank all of the people that have been shoppers at our Christmas in the Barn,” Totzke said. “I want to wish them all happy holidays, and my partner and I are just sick that we will not see them this year, but we’re very, very thankful for what they have done in the past.”