Groups offer food, cheer on Thanksgiving

Groups offer food, cheer on Thanksgiving

By James Duffy, news correspondent

To Bostonians experiencing homelessness and hunger, Thanksgiving brings mixed emotions. While people volunteer and donate to service groups and charities more frequently around Thanksgiving, lack of shelter, hunger and isolation remain pressing realities for some. The News talked to three local service organizations about their plans to provide food and a sense of comfort to people in need during the holiday.

The Haley House

The Haley House, a soup kitchen located on Dartmouth Street, has served Bostonians in need for almost 50 years.

“Thanksgiving is just another day for us, with a festive spirit,” founder and director of special programs Kathe McKenna said.

On Thanksgiving, Haley House will offer food to hundreds of people experiencing homelessness, as it does every other day of the year, according to McKenna. However, there is one twist: after serving brunch on Thanksgiving morning, the group organizes a more standard Thanksgiving meal in the afternoon.

The staff of approximately eight volunteers serves the Thanksgiving essentials, like turkey and stuffing, to anyone who chooses to attend. Food for the meal comes mostly from donations from Bostonians.

McKenna spoke to the tremendous amount of donations Haley House receives in November and December.

“There’s a lot of attention paid to feeding people,” she said. “There’s no shortage of meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

While those in the House will be hard at work on Thanksgiving Day, Haley House has also spent weeks organizing their annual Thanksgiving Pie Drive.

From Nov. 3 to Nov. 17, Haley House sold homemade pies from their bakery for $22 each. All the money raised went to its transitional employment program, which helps people coming out of prison find stable jobs.

The Pine Street Inn

Like Haley House, Pine Street Inn is a shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Boston that aims to aid the homeless and hungry during the holiday season. The Inn hosts a Thanksgiving dinner to keep anyone who comes through their doors well-fed and happy for the night.

“It is never easy to be homeless, but it becomes especially difficult at a time of year that revolves so much around home and family,” Barbara Trevisan, the director of communications for Pine Street Inn, said in an email to The News. “This year, as every year, Pine Street plans a special Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless men and women of Boston with a traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables and pie, served by hundreds of volunteers.”

The organization will provide roughly 1,600 meals on Thanksgiving Day, according to Trevisan. Those meals will encompass 2,400 pounds of turkey, 1,000 pounds of mashed potatoes and 625 homemade pies, among other food items.

Trevisan stressed the importance of providing comfort to guests, especially on a day associated with family and security.

“The dining room is decorated to help people feel a sense of home,” she said.

Community Servings

People living with illnesses may also seek social services during the holidays.

Community Servings, a nonprofit food services program, brings help to these people, aiming to bring nutritious meals to clients who are battling critical or chronic illness. It serves weekly meals to 1,600 clients and their families year round, according to Amanda Marsden, director of communications.

Community Servings makes a few different considerations around Thanksgiving. The organization adds a handful of holiday meal options to its menu, including a variant of the traditional turkey dinner. The group also uses Thanksgiving to raise awareness, support and donations for its cause.

“Right now, we have our annual Pie in the Sky Thanksgiving Bake Sale,” Marsden said.

The annual event sold over 20,000 pies last year. This Thanksgiving season, with pies priced at $28, Community Servings is looking to raise around $800,000 total, Marsden said. The funds raised by the bake sale are immediately put to work. Every pie sold funds a week’s worth of meals for an individual.

Pie in the Sky ends on Saturday, Nov. 21, with “Pie Day” on Thursday, Nov. 19 helping to bring the bake sale to a busy end. Community Servings will be selling pies at Boston Public Market from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., while accepting donations for its program.

“It’s a very busy time of year, and we welcome a lot of volunteers,” Marsden said. “It’s a great time to give back.”

Photo courtesy Bing Broderick, Haley House

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