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Kimberly Schlapman tearfully spreads holiday joy to families in need (VIDEO)

As far back as Little Big Town’s Kimberly Schlapman’s memory stretches, food has brought her tight-knit Southern family together during the holidays.

“Since I can remember as a child, we’ve always gathered around the table several times during the holiday season at this grandmother’s or that grandmother’s or at my mama’s house,” she said, “and all of those meals are always so very special, because not only are we eating great food, we’re also sitting around just chatting with each other and telling stories… just lovin’ on each other.”

Lending a hand ham this holiday season

It’s these special memories, in part, that drew Schlapman to Smithfield’s Lend A Ham program — an initiative created by the company to alleviate the high demand for protein during the holiday season by donating protein to food banks all over the country.

The cause resonates with Schlapman, who noted, “This helps families who might not be able to go to the grocery store and buy a meal. It helps them get a warm meal on their table so they can do just the same as we are.”

Fresh off Little Big Town’s win for Vocal Group of the Year at the CMA Awards, Schlapman kicked off the Lend a Ham campaign by heading to a Shoppers Supermarket with Smithfield — and whole lot of holiday spirit — in tow.

At the supermarket, she chatted up customers, ultimately surprising them with gift cards to cover the cost of their groceries that day. Many were moved to tears, including Schlapman (and, let’s be honest, probably you, too, when you watch the touching video capturing the occasion).

“You could really tell the people who really, really needed it and that it was going to make a difference in their lives,” Schlapman said. “It was really emotional.”

Last week, Schlapman and Smithfield kept the good tidings of great ham going by heading to a local food bank in New York City and handing out 30,000 pounds of ham to those in need. But, as impressive as that number is, Smithfield and Schlapman hope to hit a much higher mark.

“It’s so easy to help families in need with this program,” Schlapman shared. “You just share the good deeds you’re doing this Christmas season on social media with the hashtag #LendAHam, and every single time that hashtag is used, Smithfield donates a serving of protein to a local food bank. By the end of the season, they’re hoping to have donated 1 million servings of protein.”

Spreading Christmas spirit in her own home

Schlapman’s involvement in Lend A Ham isn’t just affecting the families in need on the receiving end of Smithfield’s hams, though — the program is also making an impact on her family.

When she told her 7-year-old daughter, Daisy, about how Lend A Ham was touching people, Schlapman recalls how attentive Daisy was. Later, she received about all the validation she needed to know she was doing something right in this world.

“Then — this is one of my proudest moments as a mom — I said, ‘Baby, what do you want for Christmas?’ And she said, ‘Oh, I just want to ask Santa for some Legos, and then I’m gonna tell him to save all the other toys for the children who don’t have any toys,'” Schlapman said.

She attributes Daisy’s tenderhearted Christmas list to hearing about Lend a Ham. “Even the tiniest little ears pick up things like this,” Schlapman said, “and I think it’s important from a very young age to teach the kiddos about giving back.”

In that vein, Schlapman and her husband Stephen introduced Daisy to the idea of paying it forward when she was 3 years old, asking her to collect toys and take them to a toy drive. “Every Christmas season, we have her get a box of toys together that we can donate to other kids.”

Celebrating the season with loved ones

Of course, that isn’t the only tradition her family enjoys this time of year — and you might not be surprised by what most of her family’s holiday rituals generally entail.

“Oh my goodness, well, everything in my family seems to revolve around the kitchen and food and eatin’ and cookin’,” admitted Schlapman, whose own love of all things culinary led to her own cooking show on Great American Country called “Kimberly’s Simply Southern.”

“We like to get in the kitchen and make a mess,” she said, laughing. “I like to say we’re makin’ a mess, but we’re makin’ memories.”

The family also has a long-standing tradition of making Christmas cookies together — a custom that began in the kitchen during Schlapman’s childhood with her grandmother, her mama and her cousins that continues still on one Saturday every December.

Schlapman and her bandmates have much to look forward to as they move into 2015, following a banner year that included being inducted into The Grand Ole Opry (“It just does not get any better than that!”). But one thing for sure Schlapman will anticipate all year long is the holidays.

“I love tradition,” she told us. “In my family, we have lots of traditions — especially Christmas traditions — that are so special.”

And this year, and hopefully many more moving forward, that includes filling people’s bellies and souls with holiday ham and Christmas spirit.

“I just want everyone to use the hashtag #LendAHam as much as possible, because every time it’s used Smithfield is gonna donate that serving of protein to someone in need,” she said. “They want to give a million servings out this year, so we gotta help ’em do it, and it’s so easy!”

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