Friday, November 4, 2011

The Do-Gooder's Guide to Thanksgiving at Catholic Charities

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Volunteers pitch in at our Southern Maryland Food Bank.

If you’ve ever had to prepare (or help prepare) Thanksgiving for a crowd, you know that planning is essential. There’s travel to arrange, green bean casserole to make, tablecloths to iron, and a giant turkey that has decided to occupy your freezer. 

Our SHARE program needs plenty of volunteers for holiday
Of course, at the root of all this preparation is the holiday itself: Thanksgiving, “thanks” + “giving.” We know a lot of people want to show “thanks” for their blessings by “giving” back to the community, and we also know that sometimes it’s hard to budget time for charity in the midst of holiday commotion. So this year, we encourage you to plan early! Take a look at a few of our programs with holiday needs below, and keep them in mind as you coordinate your grocery shopping, errands, and events. It’s as simple as picking up some extra canned goods while you’re at the grocery store, or helping out at a food bank for a few hours one afternoon. Yet simple acts can be powerful gestures, as they help provide food, comfort, community and hope to some of our neighbors who are most in need. 

How can you help? Read on – and please spread the word!

      Our Montgomery County Family Center will host its annual Holiday Giving Project, and they need plenty of help and donations. Tiffany Tan, Program Manager, said that hundreds of families will be counting on the food packages they receive from the Family Center for their Thanksgiving celebrations.
      Volunteer: Help create and distribute food packages at the Family Center. Dates are November 21-23.
      Food Donations: In order to fill these holiday packages, the Family Center is requesting both perishable and non-perishable food donations. You can organize a drive with a church, business or group – just let them know ahead of time so they can anticipate the food! You can also donate food yourself. Perishable food is needed by November 21, and non-perishable food must be dropped off between 8-10 a.m. on November 21.
      Clothing: The season of giving is also the season of colder temperatures. The Family Center is seeking new or gently used winter weather clothing and accessories of all sizes to distribute to families in need.
To help out, contact Tiffany at 301-942-1790, ext. 131 or email

Brenda DiCarlo of our Southern Maryland Food Bank said that the Food Bank staff work all year to supply food (over 600,000 pounds of it!) to people who are hungry, but “the holidays give us more concern to add a little extra to the bag.” We all know the warm memories associated with special holiday dishes, from the big Thanksgiving turkey to the gooey apple pie. Help cultivate those memories for a family by donating to the Food Bank this holiday season. They’re asking for both perishable and non-perishable items—though anything perishable (like a turkey) should be frozen. You can contact Brenda at 301-274-0695 or email

Our SHARE Food Network offers special holiday food packages each year with all the fixings for a family feast: a 12-14 pound turkey, stuffing mix, and pumpkin pie—the works!  “It’s a huge time for us,” said SHARE’S Grants and Partnerships Coordinator, Chris Byrd (you may remember him from the Food Stamp Challenge). They are in particular need of volunteers the first three Saturdays in November (the 5th, 12th and 19th), and they’ll also need help with bagging November 14, 15 and 16. Times are listed on their monthly calendar. To register or to get additional information, contact Ms. Twitty as 301-864-3115, ext. 011 or email

Are you good at cooking for a crowd? The employment programs at our Kennedy Institute could use your help this November. Chandra Connolly said that traditionally the staff holds a Thanksgiving dinner for the 40 to 50 people with developmental disabilities in their employment programs. Unfortunately, due to budget cutbacks, they’re not sure if they can manage a big dinner this year. They’ve asked each staff member to contribute an item, but they need your help, too. You can either donate a prepared dish or simply buy a few items at a supermarket to drop off at Kennedy. “Since many of the individuals in the program live in shelters, residential facilities or homes, they may not be able to afford or will not be able to celebrate the Thanksgiving holidays,” Chandra said.  If you can pitch in, please contact Chandra at 202-281-2703 or email

No matter what your plans this Thanksgiving, we hope it’s a blessed one – and we hope that you share a part of it with our Catholic Charities family.