What’s Thanksgiving without a turkey? For many Blaine residents, it’s a harsh reality.
With the economy in what seems to be a perpetual downturn, it can be hard for many families to afford the basics, much less the extravagance of a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixin’s. It can be a disheartening time, but Blaine’s Community Assistance Program (CAP) is trying to help alleviate that holiday burden for area families by hosting their annual Thanksgiving Basket program.
The program, which began as local restaurant owner Annie Manger’s pet project in 1997, was taken over by CAP in 2002 and provides a basket of raw materials for a Thanksgiving meal in an effort to keep families from going hungry on a day that should abound with plenty.
Each basket is stocked with potatoes, yams, onions, celery, green beans, stuffing mix, gravy, broth, cranberry sauce, rolls, butter, a homemade pie, whipped cream and a turkey. Baskets are filled to meet the size of the family.
Last year, CAP provided baskets to 236 families and fed 1,243 people.
“It started as a way to help families with children during the holiday season,” said Jerry Williams, director of CAP. “But with the economic circumstances as they are, the program has expanded to include the elderly, the unemployed and the underemployed. It’s a terrific effort to get out and provide an outreach to the community.”
The baskets are funded by monetary and food donations from individuals and organizations. Potatoes are donated by Bedlington Potato Warehouse, milk is donated by Edaleen Dairy and Darigold butter is donated from the Northwest Dairy Association.
“What we can’t get donated, we buy,” Williams said, noting that they purchase their turkeys and rolls from Costco and the rest of the groceries from Cost Cutter. Turkeys will range from 12 to 24 pounds, depending on the number of people in the family. “That’s why we need contributions. Three thousand pounds at 89 cents a pound is still expensive,” he said.
Local churches provide the pies, competing to see which church can provide the most. St. Anne’s holds the bragging rights for 2011 with 67 pies donated to the cause.
North Whatcom Fire and Rescue will be assisting with the program by collecting supplies and helping carry baskets of food, which can total out the scale at anywhere from 45 to 65 pounds.
“The real outreach is to the individuals in the community to give them a chance to participate,” Williams said. “It’s a community-wide effort, and there are just a lot of people in Blaine who will open their hearts and wallets to help others.”
Jerry Bladeis, spokesperson for the Blaine Food Bank, said that his organization will not be able to provide turkeys for clients this Thanksgiving. “Since CAP is giving out turkeys for Thanksgiving, we thought we would wait and give ours out at Christmas because we had to make a choice between the two holidays,” he said. “That way families can have both Thanksgiving and Christmas covered.” The Food Bank hopes to be able to have chickens on hand for any families that come to them to meet their needs.
But, with numbers of participants already up at the Food Bank, Bladeis encouraged residents to utilize CAP as a resource. “I know [CAP] does an excellent job and hopefully they will be able to meet the needs of all the people they are going to serve,” Bladeis said. “If people in town could support them by sending money for their funds, that would be great.”
There’s no charge to receive a basket. Those interested in being a recipient just need to register with the Blaine School District’s Family Services by November 13 so a basket can be prepared for their family.
Williams stresses the importance of registering, and even more so that registrants actually pick up the basket prepared for them. “When we have people reserve a basket, and they don’t show, it means they are depriving someone who really wanted one,” he said, “And I don’t know the extent that other programs will be available.”
Registration must be completed by November 13, and baskets can be picked up the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Reservations can be made through Family Services in the Blaine School District by calling 360/332-0740. There will be no baskets available for walk-ins.
If you have the means to help your neighbor in need, please mail a check to the CAP Thanksgiving Basket Fund, P.O. Box 1067, Blaine, WA 98231. Donations may also be made at Cost Cutter, Banner Bank, and other supporting businesses in Blaine.
CAP is a registered nonprofit and donations are fully tax deductible.