Putting the Thanks in Thanksgiving
It is unanimous. This year, Capitol Hill families are struggling more than ever to put food on the table. Whether it’s job loss, shortened hours or wages cut, there are D.C. residents who can’t make it through the holidays without assistance. Thanks to organizations like Capitol Hill Group Ministry (CHGM), those families have assistance in grocery shopping this Thanksgiving.
“The numbers have swelled this year because people are really in need,” said Barfonce Baldwin, executive director of the ministry. “We really take pride in this period of Thanksgiving service because we want everyone to be able to sit down at a table and have a meal.”
Over 200 pre-registered customers came to Capitol Hill United Methodist Church on Nov. 20 to receive bags full of macaroni and cheese, stuffing mix, canned beans, garlic, cranberries, onions, rice, applesauce, yam, cake and pancake mixes, just to name a few. Safeway gift cards of $20 to $25 were also provided for turkey or ham purchases.
Bertha Bryant and her goddaughter Cynthia Duckworth came to the ministry in order to provide a sufficient meal for their big family. They look forward to making to make potato salad and sweet potato pie.
Duckworth called the basket drive a “God-sent gift for low-income families like us.” She said that every little bit counts.
“It’s a blessing to sit down with your family on Thanksgiving,” said Bryant. “That’s what you should do every day, all the time.”
During the distribution, local neighbors stopped by to donate extra bread rolls, cranberry juice, cookies and cupcakes. Midday, eleven frozen turkeys were donated from Living Wages, a nonprofit organization that provides adult education in Southeast.
The baskets were put together by volunteer groups like Mothers On The Hill and distributed at Potomac Gardens Community Center Nov. 18, Christ Church Washington Parish on Monday and at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church yesterday.
Eighty percent of donations came from local neighbors and volunteers while 20 percent came from area businesses. Baskets costed $50 for a family of four, though most CHGM families averaged at six per household.
Program Manager Shelah Wilcox began organizing the basket drive in August, sometimes receiving 15 to 20 phone calls per day asking for baskets. Her top priority was giving help to families of Ward 6.
“It’s a stressful time of year,” said Wilcox. “But it’s a good stress because we are just helping so many people.”
But Wilcox said their work isn’t even breaking the surface.
“There is so much more need this year than ever before,” she said. “At least people can have real meals instead of noodles. Now they have the opportunity to have turkey and ham. Even the children will know they have a real Thanksgiving.”
CHGM has been distributing baskets at the church for the last two years. Last year, the ministry provided around 380 baskets, meaning 1,540 meals for families on Capitol Hill and Ward 6. The ministry estimated this year’s demand to be around 475 baskets.
When customers were asked how much this basket drive benefited their family this Thanksgiving, each answered with a resounding “A LOT!”
“I’m grateful to get this,” said Aletha Williams who is making dinner for her two grandchildren this Thursday. “I’m going to cook stuffed cornish hen!”