St. Vincent de Paul needs volunteers

Not enough turkeys, other food for more than 300 recipients

As Thanksgiving Day approaches, some of Juneau’s less fortunate families are relying on the kindness of strangers for their turkey dinner — but right now, the St. Vincent de Paul Society has not collected enough traditional Thanksgiving food to go around, according to a volunteer who hosts the annual “turkey drive.”


Rena Sims said Wednesday that with recent fires, not the least of which was the dramatic Gastineau Apartments blaze, creating immediate needs for donations, not as much food as needed is available for the Thanksgiving baskets.

“You pull from what you have a little bit to take care of what’s happening right now,” Sims explained.

Sims and her friends Louise Wertheimer and Paula Sumdum have organized Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets every year for needy families in Juneau (, in conjunction with St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity whose Juneau arm is based in the Mendenhall Valley near Juneau International Airport.

“We have over 300 people signed up, and we’re about 100 to 125 short of what we need, as far as turkey and canned goods and stuffing and everything,” said Sims. “We need everything.”

Ideally, Sims said, each basket would include a turkey, stuffing, gravy, bread, corn, beans, potatoes, yams, margarine, and a pie or pie fixings.

“I may have enough (food), other than the turkeys, to do 40 bags complete … so I’m a little scared,” Sims said.

Sims is encouraging members of the community to donate food items for the baskets. Those donations may be dropped off at Smith Hall until Sunday, when the first of the baskets are set to be distributed, or at the Riverbend housing complex near the Mendenhall Valley Post Office after that.

“We have tremendous help from this community,” said Sims. “They come through every year. We believe (they will) this year, too.”

Those who cannot donate food can also volunteer time for putting together the baskets.

“We can always use that kind of help,” Sims said.

St. Vincent de Paul is not the only charitable organization that has struggled this season to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for Juneau families in need.

The Glory Hole and the Salvation Army are also seeking donations. As of Monday, they were running behind on the amount of food they had received for Thanksgiving as well (

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at


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