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Paying It Forward

Palestine resident Melanie Schatz, shown here with Roger Farr, Director of the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties, has been orchestrating an annual food drive for the past 23 years. Photo by Sarah Naron/ Messenger.

Palestine Woman Organizes Food Drive for Crisis Center

By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

PALESTINE – Christmas came a few days early to the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties as the items collected by a food drive organized by Palestine resident Melanie Schatz were delivered Thursday, Dec. 22.

Schatz, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8924 Ladies Auxiliary in Palestine, has orchestrated a food drive for the crisis center annually for the past 23 years. Due to health problems, she said, 2017 will be her final year.

According to Schatz, the food drive is assisted by Jason and Cindy Darsett, Bill Jones of Eilenberger’s Bakery and Gregory and Patricia Champagne of Discount Pools and Blake Furniture.

Schatz explained that the Champagnes have donated the use of one of their large trucks and enlisted help in getting all of the donated items transported and moved into the crisis center for the past four years.

“Up ’til then, I did it all by myself,” she said. “I walked the stairs out there (at the crisis center thrift store) 450 million times.”

When asked what inspired her to begin collecting goods for the crisis center, Schatz spoke of a dark time in her own past.

“I was a single mom; my husband left when I was five months pregnant with my baby. I had two little ones,” Schatz explained.

Former residents of Houston, Schatz and her children relocated to Palestine with no possessions to their name.

“I didn’t have anything,” Schatz said. “And nobody would help me.”

At the time, Scatz said, she was not aware of the existence of the crisis center. After managing to get herself back on her feet, she harbored the desire to help other people who were in similar situations.

“I try to help people any way I can,” she said. “It just makes you feel good, you know?”

Schatz began collecting donations in August. She estimated that a total of 150 cases of food and toiletries were delivered to the crisis center as a result of this year’s drive. Christmas gifts for the two teenagers and six women currently residing in the crisis center’s shelter were also received from donors.

“It’s not as good as it was,” said Schatz when asked how the collection measures up to previous years. “But you know what? Anything is wonderful.”

Schatz expressed her hope that more people will pay it forward after finding their way out of difficult situations such as the one she was in.

“I just hope that people pay it forward when they get on their feet. Some can, some can’t,” she said. “But it makes your heart feel good. I’m going to miss this next year.

“23 years is a long time,” she continued. “I hope it’s made a difference in people’s lives.”

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at snaron@messenger-news.com.