Hundreds lined up Wednesday on foot or by car to receive a free box with Thanksgiving food essentials including stuffing, vegetables, apples, a mac and cheese tray, squash, cranberry sauce, gravy, dinner rolls and a turkey. An assembly line of volunteers pack the boxes while the line of cars, wrapped around the block, drive up for the Thanksgiving meal giveaway.
There were no requirements for anyone to receive a box of food for this event on Tuesday. A total of 567 families were handed meal boxes by Blue Mountain Action Council at the Food Bank, 921 W. Cherry St. Some were also given to other local agencies like Helpline and Blue Mountain Heart to Heart.
The meals came from the a fund drive at Safeway and Albertsons. The community donated by opting to add change from their grocery purchase or purchasing “turkey bucks.”
The fundraising tripled the record from the past five years. BMAC raised $20,000 altogether between the three grocery stores, said Jerry Beal, store manager at Albertsons.
“Our community has been really giving this year … our employees were really on the front end of asking customers and telling them it goes straight back to their local community,” Beal said.
Key Technology also donated 80 boxes of food, Jeff Mathias the Food Bank director said.
It was the first time for a lot of people visiting the BMAC Food Bank for the event. Many said they plan to spend time with family for Thanksgiving.
Debbie Dinsmore, who was at the event, said people are more giving during the holidays. She was an employee at Walmart for 14 years and now collects disability.
“Once when I was working at the checkout, a customer couldn’t pay their $270 bill and the lady behind covered it,” she said.
She thanks the community for its help during the holiday time.
“When you’re on disability you barely have enough to pay your bills, food always comes last,” Dinsmore said.
Julie Anderson will have a full house for Thanksgiving, and she plans on feeding three homeless families from one meal box.
“I love this, this is beautiful, thank you for your support and help,” Anderson said.
The event had 36 volunteers.
“We couldn’t have done that without the help from volunteers who not only helped prepare for the distribution, but worked their tails off cleaning up and getting the Food Bank in order so we could make our food pickups and deliveries to other pantries in town the next day,” the Food Bank director wrote in an email.
Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to help out as well as other members of the community. Many of the volunteers were smiling as they worked to pass out the boxes.
The Food Bank had to close early, at 4 p.m., because it ran out of food.
“When we ran out of turkey we scoured the freezers and pulled together beef, chicken and pork and served another 50 families, but in the end I had to turn away about 25 families,” Mathias wrote.
“Turkey bucks” will continue for Christmas meals and there will be a raffle to win a John Deere Power Ball Gator, a utility vehicle that was donated by Pepsi to Albertsons and Safeway. The drawing will be the week before Christmas, Beal said.
Local Safeway and Albertsons grocery stores will accept donations from shoppers who grab a “turkey buck” in $1, $5 or $10 increments at the register or round up their transaction to a whole dollar amount.
The funds will go to BMAC for Christmas meal boxes and your name can be entered into the raffle.