Christmas confections and holiday foodstuffs were piled high outside Sherman’s Four Rivers Outreach on Monday afternoon — at least for a few minutes. A procession of people, many of them clients in the Outreach’s substance abuse program, hurried around the cornucopia, each individual packing a box with goodies for Christmas dinner. Wide-eyed children pointed to their favorite treats, imploring moms and dads to choose sugar over sustenance.

Christmas confections and holiday foodstuffs were piled high outside Sherman’s Four Rivers Outreach on Monday afternoon — at least for a few minutes. A procession of people, many of them clients in the Outreach’s substance abuse program, hurried around the cornucopia, each individual packing a box with goodies for Christmas dinner. Wide-eyed children pointed to their favorite treats, imploring moms and dads to choose sugar over sustenance.


A middle-aged man named Earl Hester worked to restock the gaps in the tables as the line worked its way around.


"I was an addict; right now I’ve been clean for about two months," said Hester. "I volunteer (at Four Rivers) all the time. The main purpose of this place is to make the public … aware of what addiction is about, and how they can help."


The Outreach was founded seven years ago by husband-and-wife team Arthur and Jeannie Horn. The couple originally created the organization to serve the economically disadvantaged, but found a niche in the Sherman area when they shifted their focus to those struggling with addiction.


"We started in a two-bedroom house with two (clients)," said Arthur Horn, who said the Outreach now serves more than 500 people. "We have a GED program, we have a career center program, which is job training, job placement and job coaching. We have life-skill classes, and we finished our dental clinic and we’re going to start serving people there next month."


Horn explained that the food giveaway, which the Outreach does three days each week with food donated by Wal-Mart, started last year as a way to provide resources for those trying to get back on their feet.


"We bring (the food) over here and lay it out, and then we let people shop; they get one box and we don’t tell ‘em what they can get, they just fill up one box," said Horn, adding that the Outreach has provided more than 300,000 pounds of food this year. "We feed 400 prepared meals a week in addition to (the giveaway). And if you eat, you have to attend a class."


Jeannie Horn said about half the people who participate in the giveaway are also enrolled in the Outreach’s substance abuse classes.


"The people who attend our programs and our classes, we let them go first (through the line), because our goal here at Four Rivers is to help change their lives so they can get out of this rut they’re in. So if they attend our classes and our groups, we give them tools to help them be self-sustaining. But we don’t exclude anybody."


As one would imagine, the Horns have countless stories of struggle and success, of triumph and tribulation. This time of year, Jeannie Horn said the narratives she hears can be particularly gut-wrenching.


"We’ve had several that have come to us and told us, "We don’t have any Christmas dinner, we don’t have any food, we don’t have any Christmas presents," said Horn. "This one lady just came up, she has no food, no money, no nothing, her husband has cancer and he’s going through severe chemo treatments and she said what a blessing this is that she can stock up and get some food for Christmas."


In a back room of the Outreach that’s typically used to teach G.E.D. classes, donated teddy bears and action figures obscured the computer screens. An elderly woman grabbed two small toys and made her way to the door.


"Thank you so much," she said to Arthur Horn as she headed back outside to the temporary food pantry. "This is surely going to make my little grandbaby happy."