Area charities will be busy on Thanksgiving
TRI-COUNTY AREA—Counting your blessings at Thanksgiving can be tough when there isn’t much food to count on—or many other people to count with. Recognizing this, several people and organizations in Yates County and around the Finger Lakes have made an effort to make the holiday a warmer one for others.
Locally, the focus is on home-based Thanksgiving celebrations. Many churches in Yates County provide Thanksgiving baskets for needy residents, who receive the basics for a Thanksgiving meal they can prepare themselves.
The Dundee Area Food Pantry has experienced an increase in the number of their clients—and a decrease in the amount of donations received, says director Irene Nowak. A team of volunteers, augmented by members of Boy Scout Troop 25 and additional volunteers from Cargill collected extra food for Thanksgiving and will help it get to recipients.
“Our numbers used to be at about 55 families—but last month we had 73 families. The numbers are gradually creeping up,” Nowak says. Turkeys were donated and purchased through Foodlink; these will be distributed Thursday, Nov. 18. The once-a-month food distribution, usually held from 11:30 to 1 p.m. the fourth Thursday of the month at the Dundee Baptist Church on Seneca Street is available to residents within the Dundee School District and sponsored by the Council of Churches. In November and December, the distribution happens on the third Thursday instead.
Nowak says the volunteers generally pack for 60. If there are more, “We always have sufficient food, but we there may not be as much variety of food. But there will be enough,” she says firmly.
In Yates County, food is also distributed to the community on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings at the storefront on Water Street maintained by Freedom Village. Rich Sigfried of Freedom Village explains that more food is donated to Freedom Village by manufacturers than their residents can use, so the group decided to make their surplus available to those in need in the larger community. They also give away food in Watkins Glen on Saturdays.
Additionally, Freedom Village staff members empty the residences on Thanksgiving and Christmas, inviting their teen clients into their homes for family-based celebrations.
Residents at St. Mark’s Terrace in Penn Yan and Dundee can celebrate Thanksgiving with a home-cooked meal. “We serve about 25 dinners in Penn Yan, maybe 10 or 12 in Dundee,” says Deb Hoffman, who is coordinating this year’s meals. “Normally it’s just been the St. Mark’s Terrace people, plus maybe a friend or two (of the residents), someone who doesn’t have anywhere to go. We have no problem serving other people, although we’ve never opened it up to the public,” Hoffman says. Residents who would like a Thanksgiving dinner are requested to call the office at St. Mark’s Terrace as soon as possible. The main dinner is served in Penn Yan; take-outs are driven to residents at St. Mark’s Terrace in Dundee.
Two Schuyler County churches provide community Thanksgiving meals, often seeing Yates County residents join them. The Rev. George Norton of the First Baptist Church in Montour Falls says his church generally prepares to serve about 75 diners. The meal, put together through donations of food and money, and with the help of volunteers who cook, serve and clean up, is open to all. “There’s no screening,” Norton says. Assistance with the meal and donations for food are always welcome but not required.
A variety of reasons may bring guests to the table. “Maybe the kids won’t be home for Thanksgiving. We’ve had years when sudden storms have come and plans for travel have fallen by the wayside. We have folks who come alone and people who can’t afford to do a meal. All kinds of people are there, we don’t want there to be any stigma,” he says. Adding, “My family knows if they’re going to have Thanksgiving with me, that’s where it’s going to happen.”
Just like at Grandma’s, guests are requested to call several days in advance (607-535-7310) to let the chefs know how many to expect. The meal begins at 1 p.m. and continues “until people want to go home,” Norton says.
Those who call (607-546-8560) no later than Friday, Nov. 19, will also find room at the table at the Burdett Presbyterian Church, where a meal will be served from noon to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Lay Pastor Richard Evans says the meal began about five years ago when a member of the congregation, wishing to do something for the community, inaugurated the idea with his help. The celebration has grown to embrace the larger community, with take-out meals sent on request to senior residents at Jefferson Village in Watkins Glen and Romeo Village and Catharine Court in Montour Falls. “Anyone who wants a meal is invited,” Evans says, characterizing the annual gathering that’s become a church tradition as simply wonderful.