A large group of volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) led by Bishop Edward Nixon, of the Lecanto Ward of the LDS Church, was also joined by President Byron Avens of the Ocala LDS Stake, which covers numerous Central Florida Counties including Citrus County, packed the individual food boxes Tuesday, Nov. 17, to be handed out at the Thanksgiving Feeding Alliance (TGFA).
Since 2007, the TGFA has organized an annual feeding that provides a turkey and a box of fixings to families in need who qualify under Salvation Army standards of need so that every family in Citrus County who qualifies can have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Qualification is done during the month of October by the Salvation Army staff each year so that the TGFA has time to make the arrangements for getting non-perishable food, that for the past number of years has been donated by the LDS Church.
This year, the LDS Church donated $20,000 worth of beans, rice and various canned vegetables to fill the boxes of fixings. The order for the hundreds of turkeys has to be placed with the Inverness Publix at the end of October in order to ensure that enough turkeys are available to fulfill the need. Also, appeals to the community to donate money to pay for the turkeys have to be conducted.
Brannen Bank stepped up again this year to allow people who wanted to donate to drop off checks made out to "Thanksgiving Feeding Alliance" at any of its 11 Citrus County branches.
The TGFA, which was started through the efforts of Pastor Douglas Alexander of the New Church Without Walls (NCWOW), along with Inverness Mayor Bob Plaisted when they joined together with the Citrus County Salvation Army.
Both organizations were conducting a feeding on a smaller scale, but in 2007 when the economy took a nose dive and many more families needed help they joined forces so together they could provide Thanksgiving dinners to more than 2,500 Citrus County families in need in the parking lot at Inverness Walmart.
Many of those families pitched tents and camped out in the grassy areas surrounding the parking lot so they could be first in line. The next year, they decided to continue to work together and formed an alliance calling themselves the TGFA, which now has a membership of more than 30 nonprofit and for-profit companies working together to do the feeding.
The TGFA began qualifying families during October yearly so the needy families were guaranteed to get a turkey and fixings and were given a time certain to pick up their food so that way camping out was no longer necessary.
As of Friday, the generous people of Citrus County have donated enough money so that the TGFA has just qualified to receive $5,000 from a $5,000 challenge to the community that was made a week ago by The Black Diamond Foundation.
As a result, the TGFA now has collected enough, along with a generous $1,000 store credit from Publix Corporate Marketing Department to pay for the turkeys Saturday when they arrive in a Community Food Bank freezer truck that picked up the items Friday at the Inverness Publix.