In the months before Thanksgiving two years ago, Food for Others had a problem. We had too many turkeys, but not enough space in our freezer for them.
In the teeth of the economic downturn, the community knew that we needed more donations than ever, and they were responding, replenishing our regular food supply and adding special gifts traditional to holiday meals. Especially turkeys!
In fact, donors provided 600 Thanksgiving turkeys that year, but right before the 600 turkeys arrived, our Ice Age-vintage freezer broke! With a little luck, and a lot of phone calls, we managed to distribute half of the turkeys to our special groups and give out the rest ourselves at our Merrifield warehouse. By the end of the holiday we had made sure that not a single pound of food went to waste, and that every turkey went to a needy family.
While we didn’t waste any turkeys that were given to us, the fact is that we could have accepted and given out more turkeys, but without the freezer we had to turn donations down. And we soon found out that the old freezer was too old to fix. So we determined to replace both our freezer and our refrigerator with new models that would be equal both to our donors’ generosity and to our clients’ needs.
We did what we always do – we asked our supporters for help. We had never made a special appeal to them before, but you can only imagine what these big new refrigerator/freezer pairs cost. Still if Food for Others was to be a reliable place for people needing food, we had to have this capacity. We couldn’t be turning food away, or we would soon be turning people away.
Our supporters responded wholeheartedly. Over the summer, construction began. Out with the old and in with the new! When the installation was done we had modern commercial facilities to cool and freeze food, adequate for the foreseeable future. Last year, we accepted all the donations that came our way, and served all the families that came to us. And as our capacity to receive food increased, a major local dairy began to give us all their extra milk production. Other food distributors now know they are welcome to donate their excess to us – rather than dumping food, as is often done now.
For us, Thanksgiving is both the most hectic and the most satisfying time of year. We have to hustle to keep up with the extra numbers of clients, sometimes in Spanish, sometimes in sign language (!). But afterwards we know we have done something that really does reflect the Holiday, and can go home to our own family tables with that much more gratitude.
So can our supporters. The freezer, the turkeys, the trimmings – they do it all. So many people support our work at the holidays and throughout the year. Their extraordinary generosity, year in and year out, has made a big difference for hundreds of families throughout Northern Virginia.
Peter L. Spain is a volunteer with Food for Others. For more information about Food for Others – or to donate for Thanksgiving – call 703-207-9173 or visit foodforothers.org.