By Madison Fisler Lewis
Nov. 24, 2014. On Thanksgiving day this Thursday, while most High Country residents are stuffing the turkey, baking holiday pies, watching and playing a football game or two or enjoying quality time with family, there are many other local residents who struggle during the holiday season. The truth is, for some folks, Thanksgiving is a day that is celebrated sparingly, or not at all.
Allison Jennings, food services coordinator for the Hospitality House in Boone, is coordinating the annual Meal of Thanks to help keep hungry bellies at bay this holiday season.
“We are a community kitchen, so we serve three meals a day, seven days a week,” Jennings said. “But on Thanksgiving, we usually plan to have 125 people come eat with us. It is open to anyone. If you have a need, then you are welcome to a meal.”
Jennings mentioned that the only drawback to Thanksgiving is that the AppalCART will not be running that day, which may prevent some from getting to the facility for their hot Thanksgiving meal.
During the holiday season, the shelter has seen a spike in donations from food drives, businesses and individuals who are hoping to do a bit of good in the community during the season of giving. Because of the rise in donations, the organization is able to give more to those in need.
“We offer food boxes seven days a week, so that is always going on,” Jennings said. “November is a time that people really like to give, so we have an abundant amount of food, and we are able to offer more to those who need it. Usually, a food box lasts three days, but with the donations we have, we can add more items. We have a food pantry where people are able to pick one item per shelf, and there are 25 shelves, which makes 25. With what we have now, we are able to double that.”
The added items in the food boxes means that the people who receive them are able to make them last that much longer. In general, a food box will last someone three days. With all of the help that the Hospitality House has received this season, the box is expected to last for the better part of a week.
Even though there have been plenty of donations this season, the Hospitality House is still in need for specific items that will be utilized for the Thanksgiving meal.
The Thanksgiving meal will be served starting at noon and will last until 2 p.m. The left overs of the Thanksgiving meal will be served for dinner at 5 p.m.
“We need milk, and traditional items like whipped cream for pies, nuts, sugar, butter, creamer for coffee. Mostly we need perishable items. We have had so many food drives so we have a lot of non-perishable items. But we have a lot of cereal, but no milk,” said Jennings.
While the kitchen is fully stocked with volunteers for the event, help is still needed for the High Country Turkey Trot, which will take place on the morning of Thanksgiving Day.
“Volunteers are always needed at the Turkey Trot,” Jennings said. “And the items that we have donated at that event will be used for meals later in the week and for food boxes. If people want to help financially, monetary donations are always accepted. You can just write a check and mail it to us, or we are still more than happy to take food donations.”
On Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 27, the Hospitality House will once again host the High Country Turkey Trot, an annual 5K race to benefit the Hospitality House of Boone. The annual event is held each year on Thanksgiving and provides a way for the local community to raise food and funds to help out hungry neighbors in need on the day when many are the most thankful.
Even though she has seen many holiday seasons come and go, Jennings is still ever thankful for the support of the community.
“I am so thankful right now that people are being so giving,” Jennings said. “We believe here that all individuals should have access to healthy, affordable and diverse local food and that is what we want to offer. I also want to remind people that when the holidays are over, people are still hungry. People give a lot this time of year, but sometimes seem to forget about it in February and March. We are so grateful for all the help we have received.”