Food donations roll in, but need is up in Juneau

Nonprofits seek food donations for holiday

Posted: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Donations for charity food boxes this holiday season on pace with last year, however, local nonprofit organizations are seeing a 15 to 20 percent increase in requests for food, United Way of Southeast Alaska executive director Brenda Hewitt said.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"If funding is flat, and we're having a greater increase in need, then we're still in trouble," she said. "But I see more and more people doing food drives."

The two largest charity food box distributors in the community, St. Vincent de Paul and the Glory Hole, each have significant needs to fill for the annual Thanksgiving meal giveaway for about 650 families in Juneau. Both nonprofit organizations will begin giving away the food boxes in less than a week, which include a turkey and all the fixings.

"It's going better than last year, that's for sure, but we don't have any of the canned goods," said Rena Sims, who has volunteered the past six years to put food boxes together through St. Vincent de Paul.

The nonprofit is in need of canned items such as corn, green beans, cranberry sauce and gravy. Sims said she could also use pumpkin pie mix, stuffing, potatoes, onions, eggs and piecrusts.

"Canned goods we need and we don't have," she said. "We have enough maybe to do 15 baskets with the canned goods and so we need to cover it."

The nonprofit is doing well with turkey donations but needs several dozen more before distributing the boxes on Saturday, Sunday and Monday between noon and 4 p.m. at Alaska Housing Finance Corp. on Postal Way in the Mendenhall Valley.

"We have 300 people on the list already," said Sims, adding that they have had about 260 turkeys donated so far.

The Glory Hole is in a different situation. The nonprofit is looking good on canned foods, although it could always use more, but it is in need of turkey donations, executive director Mariya Lovishchuk said.

"We have about 40 turkeys and we need about 350," she said.

The Glory Hole plans to begin distributing its food boxes Monday. People in need of a food box should sign up as soon as possible, Lovishchuk said.

"We kind of use this holiday time before Thanksgiving and Christmas to collect enough cans to give out in our food boxes throughout the year," she said. "These are not necessarily items for the holidays. We could definitely use soups and beans and kind of things like that because this is the time we stock the shelves for the cold winter that is here."

There are plenty of other organizations in the community to donate food or money to so that people can have a quality Thanksgiving meal, Hewitt said, such as Helping Hands, Catholic Community Services and numerous churches. Sealaska Corp. has begun a food drive and the Southeast Alaska Food Bank will hold a food drive Friday.

"I'm just seeing more and more people focused on making sure that people do have food because it is a critical need, so that's good," Hewitt said.

The Salvation Army will once again team up with the Hangar on the Wharf to host the community meal for the less fortunate at the downtown restaurant on Thanksgiving.

Many of the people in the community that need the charity food boxes are not the stereotypical poverty-stricken folks that many might imagine, Sims said.

"Most of the people that come for the baskets are borderline homeless," she said. "They're just barely making it."

Everyone in the community should have a nice Thanksgiving meal to enjoy, Sims said.

"When they finish paying their rent, light, gas, phone - a turkey? They're struggling to eat now," she said. "And to have a Thanksgiving meal, a festive meal, is a whole lot to ask of them. And yet they want to have it. Everyone in America does. This is a country to be thankful for."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or

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