While national economic worries appear to be hurting Thanksgiving charity in some parts of the country, the spirit of sharing in the Lawrence community seems as strong as ever.
"It's a really weird thing that's happened. This is the first time we've seen such a tremendous outpouring of food," said Pam Casagrande, board chairman of the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen (LINK).
Casagrande said that in the past week, donations have included five pounds of coleslaw, several gallons of soup and mounds of potato salad. Also, she said, a private citizen recently donated two 20-pound turkeys, two cases of canned corn and a case of canned peas.
Casagrande said those donations will translate into plenty of helpings at LINK's annual Thanksgiving dinner for area needy, which will be from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday at First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.
The dinner is open to anyone who would like to attend.
A good number of people also are donating their time to either serve the meal, prepare the meal, deliver it to the homebound or clean up afterward. In fact, so many people have volunteered that Casagrande has had to turn some people away, an act she regrets.
"ONE OF the rules is that when you ask for somebody, you have a job for them," Casagrande said.
One area where LINK has seen a drop is in monetary donations: For the first time in a long time, the organization has had to dip into its backup funds to finance its activities.
"We haven't had as many donations, but that's not to say the community hasn't been generous," Casagrande said. "Our costs have gone up, too."
She said LINK served an unusually high number of meals during the summer, which took a toll on the group's resources. Also, LINK is receiving fewer donations of cups, paper plates and napkins. Those items are costly, Casagrande said, especially when considering the average of 99 people served at each of LINK's tri-weekly meals.
"We really are kind of a shoestring operation. We need the support of the community, and we have that," Casagrande said.
John Churchill, corps administrator for the local Salvation Army, also reported an increase in donations. The organization today distributed Thanksgiving baskets complete with turkey, cranberry sauce, yams, rolls, pumpkin pie and other holiday fixings to several needy families.
WHILE 175 turkeys were needed for Thanksgiving baskets last year, 230 baskets were requested this year, and turkey donations were just a few short of the goal as of this morning. Churchill said he expected some last-minute donations would make up the difference.
"The need has increased, and the people have responded to that need," Churchill said.
He added that, so far, the Salvation Army is right on target in its efforts to raise $115,000 for its Christmas assistance programs.
"We're grateful for that community support," Churchill said. "I hope the national situation doesn't get so bad that it affects Lawrence like it has other areas."