Thanksgiving is the time for food and family for many people, but the holiday season also comes with food insecurity for struggling households.
Shared Blessings Inc. is hosting its annual Thanksgiving Feast to help those in need. Volunteers and donations are still needed for the event, which will be taking place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week.
Lead coordinator for the event, Mitzi Warren, said, “We are happy to take anything and everything. We serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal, as much as possible, on Thursday. And then Friday and Saturday are a total free-for-all. Whatever we get, we make into a meal, and that’s what we hand out.
“Ham, meatloaf, really anything. Our biggest push right now is to get turkeys because we have to have those for Thursday. Sides, desserts, casseroles, canned corn, anything is fine for most of the other time. Nothing is too small. A couple dozen cookies would be a great dessert for a dozen people.”
The group is also still in need of meat to serve in the meals. On the Thanksgiving Feast Facebook page, a page dedicated to the event, they wrote in a post, “It is time for us to start counting turkeys! Last year, we served about 145 turkeys, a couple dozen hams, and 300 pounds of chicken. We need AT LEAST that much this year (our numbers are much higher than last year when we were still two weeks out).
“So, we are asking for pledges of meat — turkey especially — but on Friday and Saturday, we serve whatever we have. Please comment or send a message [on our Facebook page] telling us how many turkeys you’re donating, whether they’re cooked — de-boned or not — or frozen, and what day you will deliver them.
Volunteers are needed to deliver meals and serve in the kitchens for all three days, but especially on Saturday. Those who are interested in volunteering can also message the Thanksgiving Feast Facebook page to let them know what day(s) and times will work.
Deliveries will start at 10 a.m. and conclude around 2 p.m., the same for each day and location, though kitchens will change on cooking start times.
“We are on track to do way more meals than last year, just with how many people have signed up,” Warren said. “We did about 5,000 meals last year. This is our 11th year, and our first year was just to cover for the kids who wouldn’t have hot meals over the weekend. So, Shared Blessings and some community members got together and did about 500 meals that first year.
“And every year that has grown to, ‘Oh, maybe we should include… senior citizens and then we added the people who get Meals on Wheels since they don’t serve on holidays and weekends. Then we spread to two more school districts, and then we thought we should notify the veterans organizations to see if there are people that should be signed up. We just continually think about getting the word out.”
Warren went on to discuss how the three days will look.
“We have seven kitchens, mostly at churches,” she said. “We have a central list first, then we break it down into each of the kitchens. Then the lead coordinators at each of the kitchens get the list, and they figure out how to divvy up all the people they have to feed.”
Since the pandemic, the event has moved from dining together at Shared Blessings to meals being delivered to people at home.
“We do miss that community of all of us being squeezed in together,” Warren said. “Several of our locations do offer for people to come and dine in, but people enjoy being able to be in their own homes with their own families. We’ve never gotten back to that level of dining together that we did before the pandemic.”
According to Warren, the event has always been a community effort.
“We want to thank the school clubs who are making food for the event,” she said. “Farmington FFA has been helping us for several years, and last year, when I went to pick up food from them, I took a full-sized pickup truck back. “They do wonderful things for us, and in addition to them, West County Schools have a couple of clubs that are making food for us along with North County, Bismarck, and Potosi Schools. So we love getting the kids involved and teaching them about community, giving back, and helping people when you have the opportunity to.”
For those who can not volunteer their time but want to contribute, items for meals can be dropped off at Shared Blessings in the trailer parked in the drive or at Details Salon in Bonne Terre. A list of the still-needed items can be found on the Thanksgiving Feast Facebook page.
Regarding the people who have already volunteered, Warren said, “People selflessly give their time, talents, and money every year, and it’s just an amazing statement about the values of this community that we are able to help so many people.”
To access more information or to volunteer, contact the group via the Thanksgiving Feast Facebook page, by email at ThanksgivingFeast@yahoo.com, or by phone at (573) 952-0363.
There is also a PayPal and Venmo set up for the event for monetary donations, send PayPal donations to SharedBlessingsINC and Venmo to sharedblessingsshelter.
Stephanie Kim is the assistant editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.