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Reaching out

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Time is ripe for Thanksgiving Feeding Alliance food giveaway

By Mike Wright

INVERNESS — Brandie Works and Mercedes Padfield spent the latter part of Thursday afternoon picking oranges.

The pair of Citrus High School students joined 11 other members of the school’s Interact Club in doing their part to provide Thanksgiving meals for the county’s needy.

“I like to reach out,” Mercedes said. “We feel like we’re doing something good.”

Her friend agreed.

“If we can have food, other people should have food, too,” Brandie said.

Saturday is the seventh annual Thanksgiving Feeding Alliance meal giveaway at Walmart in Inverness and the We Care Food Pantry in Homosassa.

Organizers said 3,000 men, women and children will be able to enjoy a turkey dinner with the fixins on Thanksgiving Day thanks to the time and generosity of countless Citrus County citizens.

“It’s become an important thing for the community,” said Doug Lobel, the volunteer executive director for the Thanksgiving Feeding Alliance.

Lobel said 1,000 people are registered to pick up boxes of food for their families. He said 600 are registered for the Inverness Walmart and 400 at the We Care Food Pantry in Old Homosassa.

Families registered through the pantry or Salvation Army. They then arrive at the sites at specific times between 9 a.m. and noon or 1 p.m.

Lobel said organizers have readied box-loads for up to 5,000 people. 

He said organizers wonder if many people did not register and instead will simply show up at Saturday hoping for a Thanksgiving box.

He said organizers are prepared for that, though it’s possible they will run out of turkeys if a large number of non-registered residents arrive.

“They may or may not get food,” Lobel said.

Those who have not registered must bring proof of Citrus County residency, such as a power bill, and government-certified proof they are needy, such as their child’s acceptance into the free- or reduced-lunch program at school. Non-registered recipients will receive food at the Walmart site only.

The Church Without Walls started the Thanksgiving turkey giveaway 10 years ago, the Rev. Doug Alexander said. The need was apparent from the beginning.

“It got to be too big,” he said. “We had to give it up and get the agencies and other churches involved.”

Publix customers donated $8 toward the purchase of 10- or 11-pound turkeys. Lobel said the group raised enough money to pay for 1,200 turkeys, but Publix customers have covered nearly all that cost through their donations.

The event draws hundreds of volunteers, including several elected officials. Each one is assigned a specific task.

Lobel said the food giveaway benefits all involved.

“Every one of these people could go down to the feed stations, like the Vineyard, for a meal on Thanksgiving,” he said. “This allows them to have the meal in their home with the family together. And the community leaders are down there helping out. They’re getting their hands dirty.”

Shaun Seedeen, farm supervisor for The Path of Citrus County, a Christian-based homeless shelter, said he looks forward to the annual Thanksgiving food giveaway.

“I enjoy seeing people’s faces in the community,” he said. “It’s nice to help out. I consider it a privilege.”