By Deb Silverthorn
Jewish Family Service is preparing for its annual Thanksgiving meal giveaway to 1,000 families from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Nov. 22. The meals will be delivered drive-thru style.
“For many people, this Thanksgiving may feel relatively normal compared to last year, but the lines of cars we’ve seen every Thursday, one year later, serve as a reminder that so many are still facing hardships,” said JFS CEO Cathy Barker. “We are thankful for all the volunteers and donors that are helping us serve those in need once again.”
In 2020, with JFS already eight months into drive-thru pickups for its Food Pantry clientele, the organization added its classic holiday food packages to the November monthly receipt. The upcoming distribution is the only one for the month of November. On Dec. 2, the organization opens its newly expanded facility for indoor, client-choice shopping. (Anyone in need of provisions before then should contact Maya Cohen at email@example.com.)
Clients will receive a turkey, vegetables, cranberries, mixes for muffins and stuffing, gravy and more. In addition to the supply for the general public are kosher-certified packages.
“Making the Thanksgiving meal possible for thousands of people truly enhanced my own feelings of thankfulness and gratitude,” said Cohen, food pantry and hunger relief manager for JFS. “It most definitely put me deeper into the spirit of the holiday and this year, even more so.”
Last year, when the organization served 700-750 cars per distribution, it planned for 900. Ultimately more than 1,000 families came through, with Cohen and other staffers heading to a nearby supermarket to fill the additional boxes needed so no one would be left out.
“We expect more than 60,000 pounds of food will be shared to our clients this year, to serve more than 4,200 individuals,” said Cohen. “Our clients come through with an immense measure of appreciation, many of them with tears of gratefulness. You can’t walk away from this activity without your heart beating so deeply.”
The organization reports that supplies from regular sources do not fill the need. This year, they are making up the difference by shopping retail, and expect to pay about $14,000 additional to keep up with demand.
“The supply chain issues have become our issues and we need the community’s support to help us through,” said Cohen. “While there just isn’t enough to go around through our regular channels, we’re going to make it work.”
Helping Cohen and the JFS staff on Nov. 22 will be a team of 45 volunteers, including Weitzman Group, for whom the morning, too, is meaningful.
“Volunteering and giving back to our community is an important part of the culture of our organization and that culture is led by Herb Weitzman,” said Weitzman Senior Vice President A. David Zoller, who with his company has supported JFS and other organizations throughout DFW. “Our annual Turkey Day Drive includes not only donating items but taking the time to learn about the organizations we serve and then to be there hands-on.”
This Thanksgiving’s distribution will mark Lisa Rothstein’s one-year anniversary of volunteering for JFS. While she and her family had donated goods to the Food Pantry, her hands-on efforts of the last year have brought her a new sense of the spirit of giving.
“I walked away from last year’s Thanksgiving drive-thru overwhelmed, but in the best way, and I’ve been back to volunteer almost every Thursday since. Thursdays are rough but it’s the best kind of rough,” said Rothstein. “In person, I realized how many needed help and many of the clients shared some of their stories with me. All of them are appreciative and some of them come through crying.”
In addition to the day-of volunteer crews, readying the distribution takes weeks of planning and packing, and community support from organizations including Congregation Shearith Israel’s Young Adults and Shearith Prime groups, Home Tax Solutions and the Temple Shalom Brotherhood that help make it happen.
“We are grateful for the community’s ongoing support to provide hunger relief, especially during the holidays,” said Barker. “Like for all of us, Thanksgiving is special to the families we serve. They rely on us throughout the year, and certainly during this season. We are honored to be here to provide.”