ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Last year, the Food Bank of Alaska says it distributed nearly six million pounds of groceries at its Thanksgiving Blessing. With need growing this holiday season, for the first time the food bank is teaming up with agencies in the Mat-Su Valley.
Organizers are describing Saturday's effort as a test run. There are three locations for the Mat-Su Thanksgiving Blessing in Talkeetna, Willow and Wasilla.
Hundreds of volunteers were on hand Saturday to transform the lobby of the Good Shepherd Church into a cornucopia of ingredients -- more than 30,000 pounds of food -- for a Thanksgiving feast.
“We felt like people were falling through the cracks and we wanted to help out more people, so we thought if we all join forces and do it as a joint effort that we could feed a lot more families,” said Wasilla site coordinator Kay Peterson.
More than a dozen Valley churches teamed up with the Wasilla Food Pantry and the food bank to bring groceries to families facing difficult times.
It wasn't too long ago that Glenn Colen found himself on the giving end, but others are finding themselves in the same shoes.
“Sometimes you just got to swallow your pride,” Colen said.
The key is to keep the line going in what appears to be organized chaos, with each family assigned a personal shopper who helps pick out their food.
“No, Logan, one -- if someone gives you an inch, you don’t take a mile,” Colen said.
Food bank officials say the groceries fuel both recipients’ bodies and their self-esteem.
“There's a psychological difference to know that everyone else is feasting and you're not,” said the food bank’s executive director, Susannah Morgan. “So to take away that diffference and say, ‘You and I, we're the same this year -- I’m asking for help and you're giving it, but next year maybe the roles will be reversed,’ I think it's an amazing way to say we're all Alaskans and we care about each other.”
“I have given and now have received,” Colen said. “I’ve had my ups and downs -- everybody has their up and downs -- and everybody needs a break now and then.”
Organizers are planning for a second food distribution in the Valley on Dec. 18, this time for the Christmas holidays.
The Anchorage Thanksgiving Blessing will take place Monday at seven different locations.
Other local organizations are asking help from the community to give those in need a Thanksgiving meal.
The Salvation Army is taking food donations as it prepares to feed about 850 people and are still taking food donations. Items needed include commercially prepared pies, whipped topping, dinner rolls and butter, fruit juice and milk.
The Salvation Army's Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held at Central Middle School, located at 1405 E St, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Thursday. Volunteers will serve a hot turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
Anyone is welcome, especially those that are unable to prepare a meal at home or might otherwise spend the holiday alone. Volunteers will also help The Salvation Army deliver more than 400 meals to homebound seniors throughout the community.
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