Thanksgiving is defined by many things, but food and good company are often some of the most visible.
So how do Juneau’s charities do that when a pandemic seems to make gatherings contraindicated?
“We’re gonna make it happen,” said Dave Ringle, general manager of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Juneau. “If nonprofits are being given funds to clothe and feed people, we’re going to make the holidays happen.”
SVDP, the Salvation Army, Love Inc., United Way of Southeast Alaska will work together to make sure that those who want one will be able to have a Thanksgiving this year, albeit in a slightly different form than previous years.
“We are working together with a team of different people in the community to make Thanksgiving a holiday as we’re still going through the pandemic,” said Gina Halverson, Salvation Army officer, in a phone interview. “It’s going to be a united effort.”
Some of the biggest differences between the food boxes that go out and the hot meal that’s served Thanksgiving day are going to be how they’re received and the venue of the hot meal.
“We’re thinking delivery would be safer rather than having everyone coming to one location,” Ringle said. “That’s the key change.”
For the food boxes that will go out, properly masked and sanitized volunteers will put together donations into food baskets that will go to applicants, Ringle said. SVDP distributes approximately 300 food baskets every Thanksgiving, and this year will be no different, but instead of applicants coming to pick up their basket, SVDP will work with other groups to distribute the food.
“There’s an emergency food delivery program going on with the Salvation Army,” Ringle said. “We’re going to take that and ramp that up with other volunteers.”
The Salvation Army usually hosts a Thanksgiving meal at the Hangar on the Wharf, but due to the pandemic, that seems unwise, Halverson said.
“We’re working with United Way and some of the local restaurants to have a Thanksgiving meal,” Halverson said. “We won’t have a seating area. We’ll be delivering to the JACC and a few other places or people can come pick meals up.”
Meals will be packaged in to-go boxes so that people can come, pick them up, and take them home to eat. There will be no seating area, and other measures, including taped out distances and PPE-wearing volunteers will be in place for the long time tradition.
“We want to try and make sure Thanksgiving happens. We’ll be working together to make sure it gets to the people we know don’t have cooking stuff,” Halverson said. “The turkeys will be cooked by Dick Hand. He’s cooked them for years, he’s a true blessing.”
The cooperative effort between organizations is spurred by a tight year as well as the circumstances of the delivery of the food itself, Halverson said. The hot meal has been attended by around 500 people for each of the previous few years, Halverson said.
“Because it’s been such a tight year because of no cruise ships we’re working together,” Halverson said. “I’m not sure how many people will come to the meal.”
Applying for a food basket
To apply for a food basket online, go to https://form.jotform.com/202955218836159 and fill out the request. Those wishing to volunteer can call 789-5535 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Signing up is not required for the hot Thanksgiving meal. The time will be announced at a later date.
Both dinners could use donations, either food or financial. Here’s how Juneau residents can help.
Nonperishable foods will have food boxes at local grocery stores and churches, as well as at SVDP locations. Requested donations include:
•Boxed Stuffing Mix
•Canned Jellied Cranberry Sauce
•Instant Mashed Potatoes
•Canned Green Beans
•Canned Yams or Fresh Yams
•Canned or boxed Chicken Broth
Perishable foods may be brought to 8617 Teal Street or the Zach Gordon Youth Center, including:
•Turkeys or turkey breasts
Requested perishable food for the hot Thanksgiving meal can be donated at the Salvation Army. Here are foods most requested.
Due to coronavirus regulations, no homemade food will be accepted. All food must be store-bought and sealed.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or email@example.com.