Season of Plenty

Juneau charities plan full roster of Thanksgiving opportunities

Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2007

Juneau's charities have been in full swing this past week organizing meals and volunteers for Thanksgiving, a holiday that they say is hard not only for those living on a low income, but also for those without friends and family to share it with.

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"Everyone is welcome. Rich man, poor man, we don't care, as long as they come wanting fellowship and a great meal," said Capt. Jack Smith of the Salvation Army.

The organization is hosting its annual turkey dinner at Hangar on the Wharf today from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The charity expects about 100 volunteers to help serve more than 400 people a full Thanksgiving meal.

Volunteers delivered homemade pecan and pumpkin pies at Army headquarters Tuesday as Smith fielded calls from the media.

"There's a lot of these folks out there that are alone," Smith said. "Their loved ones have passed away. They have the potential to spend a lonely, lonely day and instead they get to sit down to a lovely dinner, have fellowship, and also see other people in the community do acts of service for those who are less fortunate."

The Glory Hole is one of many charities that prepared meals ahead of time for delivery or pick up. Its 150 boxed meals included everything from turkey to potatoes to pies. Executive Director George Briggs said the take-home meals allow people to enjoy the holiday in a traditional sense, and hopefully with friends and family around in a familiar place.

"They get an opportunity to have everything that everyone else has for at least a day," he said.

The Glory Hole also will serve a turkey and ham meal to about 85 people for lunch today at its headquarters on Franklin Street.

Briggs said one out of eight people in Alaska goes to bed hungry, and that's a result of wide income disparity. About 45 percent of those receiving food boxes have jobs, but don't make enough to make ends meet.

He said the holidays are when people most often come out and volunteer, but he encouraged year-round participation. Juneau's charities reported they need volunteers to help visit with seniors, work with prison ministries, and help with holiday gift and clothing drives.

You can help:

• Salvation Army welcomes volunteers today at the Hangar on the Wharf.

For more information about how to donate or volunteer, call:

• The Glory Holeat 586-4159.

• St. Vincent De Paul at 789-5535.

• Salvation Army at 586-2136.

• Love INCat 780-4090.

"Once they understand what's going on, then they get involved with helping people with their plight. Homelessness is a growing epidemic. We are doing a lot of things to try to combat it, but we are way behind the curve," he said.

While many are at home enjoying a day off work, many charities are moving into their busiest time of year. Briggs described his life right now as "organized chaos," while Smith said the Hangar meal is a yearly "monumental" undertaking.

St. Vincent de Paul prepared almost 250 baskets full of Thanksgiving meal ingredients, each including a turkey donated by corporations and individuals.

"This community came forth and made sure people had baskets. We didn't have to turn anybody away," said St. Vincent volunteer Rena Sims.

Ann Lockheart is clearinghouse director for Love in the Name of Christ, or Love INC, which coordinates charity work among 22 Christian churches in Juneau. They are preparing plate meals for those in need this holiday.

"We are just trying to pool our resource to try to fill in the gap where there is a need, a young mom needing diapers, people that need clothes getting to a job interview, and we work with a lot of people coming out of the prisons, staying in the halfway house," Lockheart said.

When asked what someone could do today if they felt inclined to help, Briggs answered that first they could write a check, and second: "As a family, say a prayer, just because I think someone up there listens every once in a while."

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