After a month when temperatures routinely soared past 100, Good Samaritan Ministries reported Wednesday that a cool $7,071.37 was raised during the Christmas in July campaign to help raise money for the Christmas boxes given out in December.

"We are thrilled with the results of our first Christmas in July drive," said Misty Bowers, public relations director of GSM. "We knew our community would respond and we certainly weren't disappointed."

For the second month in a row, the number of families coming to the GSM Food Pantry neared 1,000. Of the 989 families in July, 67 had never had to ask for help before. That number is up from 57 new families last month.

The money raised from the Christmas in July drive will go into a special fund to help off-set the cost of the boxes filled with most of the ingredients needed to prepare a traditional Christmas dinner.

"The Christmas boxes are provided in addition to the regular grocery staples our friends and clients can pick up in December," Bowers said. "With the numbers not likely to decrease any time soon, we could easily see 1,500 families this December. The money from this campaign will help alleviate some of the financial strain that tends to accompany those holiday numbers."

This year alone, Bowers said, the food pantry has seen a 17 percent increase in the number of families served than over the same time last year. If that trend continues - and it will likely increase, that would be an extra 215 families over the 1,262 that picked up boxes last December. At $35 a box, that would be an additional $51, 695 just for the Christmas boxes.

"The money raised from this drive will go a long way to help families in December and we couldn't have done it without the support of our community," Bowers said. "We're also so incredibly thankful for those businesses that put donation jars in their lobby and helped raised money for us."

Donation jars were available at American State Bank, Citizens National Bank, General Power and Light, Mid-Tex Federal Credit Union, TexasBank and Trans Texas Tire.

"The needs are certainly great, but our God is bigger and we live in a community where, no matter how difficult things get, people help their neighbors. It's really a blessing," Bowers said.

For more information about Good Samaritan Ministries, visit www.goodsambwd.org, call 643-2273 or stop by 305 Clark St.