One of the highlights each year of the Father Christmas Benefit Ball is the naming of the Father Christmas Honoree: a person, or persons, who have gone above and beyond in their volunteer efforts to help people in the community.

Mel and Karen Black, members of Shepherd of the Hills, are the 2016 Honorees.

“It gives me great pleasure and warms my heart to announce our 2016 Father Christmas Honorees,” said event chairwoman Cathy Allen in introducing the couple.

The Blacks started attending Shepherd of the Hills in April 2010 after reading an article in the newspaper about Serving Our Savior Food Pantry. The couple met a couple who were volunteers with SOS and after talking with them, Karen, in particular, decided to join them the following week.

“She came home after that first day of volunteering so excited about what this group of people were doing, that Mel went with her the next week,” said Allen. “Since then, they have continued to volunteer with SOS, picking up food every week in Spring Hill for the first 2 years.”

The Blacks also serve on the SOS Board of Directors and continue to volunteer each week, picking up donated items from Panera Bread in Inverness to distribute to the families in need in Citrus County.

However, SOS is not the only volunteer ministry where they lend a hand. As a member of the Order of the Daughters of the King, Karen attends monthly meetings and helps with the Visitation Teams. She is also Altar Guild Ministry Leader and she and Mel are always there to help with anything the church needs, decorating, cleaning, mowing and weeding and helping with special events.

Karen’s career as a registered nurse and healthcare administrator gave her an opportunity to see up close the difficulties families and senior citizens face when illness strikes. One of the difficulties Karen witnessed over and over again was the question many people faced: ‘Do I buy my medicine or do I buy food?’ Mel, an oil rig driller, traveled and worked in many places around the U.S. and abroad and also witness first-hand people suffering in poverty.

As board members, they pride themselves and set an example by treating all the SOS clients with kindness and dignity.

In reluctantly receiving this honor, Karen said: “Mel and I want to thank you for this honor. However, we must say that this honor belongs to all the wonderful men and woman who show up on Wednesdays and Thursdays to serve our SOS clients. These folks not only give food to our clients, they treat them with the love and dignity they deserve.”