June 13, 2008
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The Christmas holiday is a time for family, celebration and gift-giving. For Auburn women's golf head coach Kim Evans, Christmas is about those things but not in the traditional sense.
Many of us can remember waking up on Christmas morning as a child and running to the tree to see what Santa had brought.
The day would be filled with presents, good food and family gatherings. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have vivid Christmas memories like that. For many people in the Auburn/Opelika community, Christmas is a time when life struggles are brought to the forefront.
For the past three years, Evans has been working to change that for families in the Auburn/Opelika community.
"It all started for me on Christmas a few years ago," Evans said. "There was a lady (Karen Wiggins) in the community and her husband, who had always dedicated their holiday to feeding people in need. Her husband passed away and her children had since married and moved away, so I stepped in and started helping coordinate getting more food, creating opportunities for groups in town and helping raise awareness that there is a free meal available on Christmas."
Wiggins, an avid golfer, and her family had been working with Red Lobster on Christmas Day for years. Evans read about the project in the newspaper and knew immediately she wanted to jump on board.
This past Christmas, Evans, a group of more than 100 volunteers and Red Lobster dedicated their morning to helping feed families across the community.
"We get up early on Christmas morning to cook the turkeys, make the gravy, dressing and mashed potatoes," Evans said. "Red Lobster is the unsung hero to give up their establishment, where we serve from 11 to 1 on that day."
This past Christmas, the group was able to serve approximately 500 people in the community. With the help of Evans, the group was able to coordinate with the local Meals-on-Wheels program and reach out to families who weren't able to make it to Red Lobster. The volunteers also made stops at the fire and police departments and the emergency room to feed those working on Christmas.
Evans hopes to take it a step further this year. In conjunction with the Auburn University Club, Evans is hosting a golf tournament on Dec. 6 with all proceeds going to feed those in need more than just on Christmas morning.
"I want to create a system where we can feed people more than once a year," Evans said. "I want to be able to select a few families and groups that need a little more help. I want to pitch to people to not wait until Dec. 6 to give $100. We know everyone is in a crunch, but this is something a company can do that can really help."
Evans is currently working with Auburn Mayor Bill Hamm and Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller to identify families and groups that are needy. Her goal is to create avenues for better nutrition throughout the year in addition to her annual work on Christmas Day.
"I know people travel and go all over on Christmas morning, but a couple hours that day or at the golf tournament can go a long way," Evans said. "One meal that day can really make a difference to a kid or someone who is hungry. For an organization to jump on board with us would be great in helping fund someone for a week."
Volunteering is something that is in Evans blood. Her mother volunteered with the Meals-on-Wheels program back in the 1970s and 80s, and Evans remembers how much her mother treasured this work.
Now 20 years later, Evans is making a difference as well.