Like so many others, Spring Smith and her daughter Amber Haybarger will be having dinner today.
“But without this,” Smith said Tuesday, “it would probably be meatloaf.”
The two were just one of 300 families — 850 individuals overall — who were heading home from the Sankey Youth Center on West Grant Street with a bag or box full of all the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner, courtesy of the City Rescue Mission.
“It’s a great thing for our family, and for the community, too,” Smith said of the annual outreach.
“It helps a lot,” Amber added. “I think a lot of people would go without if they didn’t have it.”
The Rev. Chuck Gavroy and Linda Krumpe, who direct the Rescue Mission’s Men’s and Family Care ministries, respectively, also head up the Thanksgiving food distribution. Families must register prior to the event, and the Mission packs up food for each one based on the number of family members.
Those boxes and bags of nonperishable items are taken to the Sankey Center and, along with either a chicken or turkey, are placed by volunteers into the vehicles of recipients who don’t even have to get out of their cars.
“We have a basic list for Thanksgiving dinner,” said Gavroy, who was taking part in his 15th distribution. “That includes the bird with cranberry sauce, potatoes, apples, pumpkin pie — everything you need to make it — those are the basics that we have. Then we try to put a three-day food order in along with that, with extras like pasta and instant potatoes and whatever we get in donations.”
The turkeys are 10 to 14 pounds and the birds are two- to three-pound fryers. A family of one and two gets the chicken, three and up get the turkey, he added.
While roughly a dozen volunteers handled the food distribution, a group of men from Maitland Lane Free Methodist Church directed traffic around the building and into the service lanes.
The Rev. John Fraser said his church has been sending volunteers to serve lunch at the Rescue Mission since he arrived in 2013, and has continued to partner with the Croton Avenue facility whenever it can.
“We come down to bless them, but we’re the ones who walk away being blessed,” Fraser said.
Joann Curran has taken part in the food distribution for more than 15 years, and says the effort enhances not only the Thanksgivings of the food recipients, but also hers.
“I look forward to it every year,” she said. “I like volunteering at the Mission because it’s such a kind place. I listen to how people are cared for when they come in, how they’re spoken to. It’s unfailingly kind.”
Gavroy noted that the number of food baskets handed out each year has gone down over a decade and a half.
“My first year, 15 years ago, we did 998 baskets,” he said. “We were doing Beaver County also, but what also has happened is that other organizations have picked up doing things with the baskets. As a result, we’re doing 300 this year, which is still a significant number. That’s 300 families who probably would not have a Thanksgiving dinner otherwise.”