I remember my mom and dad telling me about their first Thanksgiving distribution at Helping Hand Rescue Mission in 1965. They had just opened their storefront Mission at 1138 New York Avenue on November 15th and wanted to do something to help the 7 struggling families that they were serving at that time. They decided to put together Thanksgiving food baskets with turkeys and all the trimmings. “You don’t know how we struggled to get those baskets filled, Kimmi.” is what mom told me as she often did when sharing stories about the early days of the Mission. “It was hard to get people to understand ‘local need’. It was before the Great Society, before The War on Poverty but there were struggling families right here.”
Through the years and through ups and downs of troubling economic times, the numbers increased and in 2019, HHRM served a record 600 needy families with Thanksgiving food boxes filled with everything and a frozen turkey or ham on the side. We were so excited to do 600 but we had no idea what was in store the next year.
2020 brought the COVID-19 pandemic and our numbers of families in need of food multiplied as the year went on. We knew the holiday numbers would be high. The problem was that food couldn’t be ordered in bulk easily due to “supply chain issues”.
I always try to have a plan and I pray about everything. I ask God for innovation and creativity. I was doing some Thanksgiving planning and the thought came to mind to start a program called “Fill A Box Feed A Family” for Thanksgiving. Families or organizations would register to pick up empty boxes and a suggested list of Thanksgiving foods to purchase and fill the box with. They’d return them and we’d distribute them. We exceeded our goal of 1000 families by about 200. It was incredible. People loved the idea and had fun decorating the boxes, added extra Thanksgiving treats and making them special for those in need. We love it!
Last year we exceeded the prior year, distributing 1,357 boxes. This year our goal is to collect and distribute 1,500 Fill A Boxes for Thanksgiving. All the Thanksgiving foods go in…stuffing, veggies, corn, rice, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, treats and coffee/tea, hot cocoa, dessert and pancake mix with syrup for breakfast. The families love the boxes and the gift card or turkey. Some purchase chicken, ham, sausage or vegetarians get other foods.
Morgan Walsh Memorial Fund has prepared over 200 boxes each year! We have schools, churches and businesses that have done 100+ and some who do 50, 25, 1 or two…every box counts and helps to feed a family! Some people give a $75 donation which covers the cost of the box, fills it with food and buys a gift card. In addition to the boxes in October and November we collect food pantry foods to fill our shelves so that we can continue to fill 200+ pantry bags to distribute to those who come to our pantry Tuesdays-Friday 11-1pm.
Local schools have donated pies, Girl Scouts shared cookies and bakeries and stores donated fresh bread and produce. We’re excited to watch everything come together this year.
All of the Huntington School District Schools host food drives for our pantry in November. They have for over 45 years. It’s truly a blessing to have their support.
We’re starting registrations and making the boxes available 2 weeks earlier than usual this year. The needs have been great and we want to be prepared to help everyone who comes for help this year.
People can sign up to Fill Boxes online using this link https://www.flipcause.com/
secure/cause_pdetails/MTYwOTU2 or they can stop by Helping Hand Rescue Mission 225 Broadway Huntington Station on Mondays 10-2, Tuesday-Friday 10-4pm and Saturdays 10-1pm to sign out boxes. If they want more than 10 they need to email [email protected] or call 631-351-6996 during business hours.
Thanksgiving season is a time to count our blessings. We’re excited to give others more blessings to count starting with a nice Thanksgiving meal.