BY DOMINIQUE JOHNSON
For the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Juneau preparations for Thanksgiving start in mid-October following the organization’s annual Friends of the Poor Walk fundraiser. Some of the money raised from donations at the walk helped purchase food for Thanksgiving food baskets.
Starting November 1st families in need of food baskets sign up at St. Vincent de Paul. The organization also coordinates with other agencies in Juneau that may need Thanksgiving baskets, such as the Juneau School District.
St. Vincent de Paul then sets up donation centers where people in the community can drop off nonperishable food items that will help fill additional baskets. St. Vincent de Paul Society Board President, Theresa Harris said, “this year donations were collected at the Cathedral of the Nativity, St. Paul the Apostle Church, the Nugget Mall and the St. Vincent de Paul office in the Valley.” She added that “the community donated over 100 bags of non-perishable food items and over 200 turkeys.”
The Wednesday and Thursday before Thanksgiving volunteers moved donated and purchased food to the Riverbend Housing community hall to begin sorting food and preparing bags. Chuck VanKirk, member of the St. Vincent de Paul board of directors, said “we were grateful for the help of volunteers from the Thunder Mountain High School National Honor Society and St. Paul’s Confirmation class.” With their help the bags were sorted in about one hour. VanKirk added, “it was good to see youth from the community volunteer and help with the project.”
Two days later the big weekend happened, Thanksgiving food basket distribution, and this year all involved were happy for a sunny, yet chilly weekend to help families pickup food baskets. Over 375 families in Juneau picked up food baskets prepared by St. Vincent de Paul, which included a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables and pumpkin pie.
Harris said “being able to provide food baskets for Thanksgiving wouldn’t have been possible without support from the Juneau community, who donated food and helped prepare and distribute the baskets.” Approximately 60 volunteers helped in the preparation and distribution of the Thanksgiving food baskets and Chuck VanKirk said “for the volunteers who helped distribute baskets, it was a good experience for them to encounter the people they were serving.”
Harris also thanked local businesses who made in-kind donations, including Western Auto who donated the use of a transport van, the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation for the use of their building, and Alaska Marine Lines for proving a trailer to store the turkeys and pies.
With continued support from the community St. Vincent de Paul will be able to continue its work in Juneau at Thanksgiving and throughout the year.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Juneau is a faith-based tax-exempt non-profit organization. If you are interested in volunteering with the organization or to learn more about the St. Vincent de Paul Society visit svdpjuneau.org or call (907) 789-5535.