Exactly how did 30 Carlow-affiliated women, men, and children come to be elbow-deep in jars of gravy the weekend before turkey day? Read on to learn more about our work with Heritage Family Thanksgiving.
This year, Thanksgiving came early for the faculty, staff, and students of Carlow University. On Saturday, November 22, a team of more than 30 women, men, and children gathered to assemble Thanksgiving dinners.
So exactly how did this crew come to be elbow-deep in jars of gravy the weekend before turkey day?
These dinners were destined for the friends of Heritage Community Initiatives in Braddock, Pa. — thanks to the coordination efforts of LauraOliver, Heritage’s development manager.
Together with her colleagues, Oliver facilitates relationships with families in the Braddock neighborhood. Most families either have preschool-age children who attend Heritage’s 4 Kids EarlyLearning Center, or have children in grades K-8 who participate inHeritage Out of School Time (HOST). These are families in need.
“The economic strain of something as simple as putting a meal on the table — especially a large one — can be overwhelming,” Oliver said.”Nearly 95 percent of our program families qualify for free and reduced lunch, so the Heritage Family Thanksgiving program relieves the financial burden of additional expenses that can mount this time of year.”
With this in mind, Gabriel Suarez, director of Carlow’s Mercy Center for Service, tasked University staff, faculty, and students with collecting nonperishable Thanksgiving items. In all, more than 30 boxes of food — 10 more than last year — were loaded into vans that Saturday morning and delivered to Heritage’s Braddock headquarters. Then the fun began.
Armed with bright orange reusable shopping bags and a checklist, volunteers began assembling individual family dinners, making sure that each bag contained the requisite fare: flour, broth, stuffing, potatoes, three vegetable options, pie fixings, a roasting pan, and $20 gift card for a turkey.
“We know we can always count on Carlow to help us, especially during this time of year,” said Oliver. “We’re so thankful for the support, but our families are even more grateful. Last year a mother cried when she received her basket; she said she may not have found another way to have Thanksgiving dinner.”
As the afternoon wound to a close, volunteers kept a close watch on the final tally: Carlow’s 30 boxes yielded 121 full dinners for families in need. With 15 additional boxes of food coming from other contributing organizations, Oliver estimates that she will have more than 150 Thanksgiving dinners to share with the residents of Braddock this week.
“It’s so wonderful!” she said with a smile. “We have 125 families participating in our programs, and we’ll be able to cover that need completely. These extra dinners mean that we can reach out into the community, beyond where we’d planned, and give someone a special Thanksgiving.”