The Thanksgiving That Almost Didn’t Happen!
By Barbara McClure, IMPACT of Southern Arizona, Executive Director
OV Voice Article December 2020
What a year 2020 has been! It was mid-day, the Thursday before Thanksgiving, and the IMPACT staff was putting the final touches on their annual Thanksgiving Dinner Kit Giveaway, which was to be held just three days later on Sunday morning. The tried and true system which has been fine-tuned over more than fifteen years runs like clockwork; and with the help of the Oro Valley Catalina Elks, SaddleBrooke Rotary, Golder Ranch fire fighters, IMPACT Board members and volunteers, two hundred dinner kits are distributed in the first hour of the afternoon, with another hundred going out the door before finishing the day.
That old way had to be completely reinvented for a 2020 outdoor, socially distanced, appointment driven, drive through distribution; but; all the plans were set, and volunteers assigned to thoughtfully mapped out positions. The phone rang, and it was surprising news that caught me completely off guard: our food provider could not get all our turkeys. He could not get ANY of our food which we were due to pick up Saturday and Sunday. He was devastated to be in this situation, as the holiday food supply chain suddenly stopped. We were not the only ones. All commercial orders were cancelled. We were stunned, but the IMPACT team believes in the phrase; “Don’t try, do!” There was just no way we could let so many families down, especially now, not in 2020!
We quickly kicked into gear, calling all the major markets to see if they could help us with any part of the order, willing to parcel it out to as many vendors as necessary. No luck! They were all in the same situation; stores already finding themselves short of cranberries, stuffing, and pies. Shoppers were going home with two turkeys each, and markets were not even sure they would have enough inventories on the shelves to last until the holiday. Some rationing began. It felt like March all over again!
Thankfully, we are blessed to have many wonderful community partnerships; it truly is the key to our success. We reached out to a relative of a family friend, a small market owner, who could help with part of our order: Shope’s IGA in Coolidge. Yes, volunteers drove to Coolidge to pick up 100 turkeys, 500 pounds of potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry on Saturday! Shamrock worked to fill out most of the remainder of our list on such short notice, and even went above and beyond to lend us a refrigerated trailer for the weekend. Gift cards could help clients cover the remaining items: vegetables, gravy and any extras. Not enough gift cards for hundreds of families! At every turn there were hurdles this year, but we overcame them all, thanks to community! We provided each household with $10 cash to be sure they could round out their holiday meal with any final ingredients needed. Canyon Community Bank came up with hundreds of crisp new bills to be included in the kits with pies, rolls, and all the other items. We were even able to add one roll of toilet paper for each household, thanks to a commercial order we had placed earlier in the month for a bonus December distribution! That was a fun surprise for all!
As 2020 draws to a close, we have to share with you how thankful we all are for our wonderful staff who have worked unbelievably hard to be sure we were there for our clients in every way needed; to our Board, who in early summer approved a budget after COVID that supports the important work we do by dipping into emergency reserves if needed; and to the hundreds of generous donors who rallied in the spring to be sure we had enough food for everyone and could remain open and fully staffed, especially when market shelves were bare and food banks saw long lines of people in desperate need. We are always thankful for our incredibly patient, thoughtful, and grateful clients. We love being able to serve in ways that support them, reduce stress in their lives, and let them know just how much we care.
COVID is clearly not over. Recently, we have been enrolling at least two new families every day. We still have more work to do in this and the coming year; so if you are still thinking about a tax credit donation, please consider helping IMPACT (QCO#20519) fund the remainder of our budget through next summer. Your gift will make a meaningful difference in the lives of thousands of people; and we will all be forever grateful for your partnership. Together, we can give hope to others.
We at IMPACT, and uncountable others, wish each of you in our community a wonderful holiday season, filled with love and laughter; and we are hopeful that 2021 is a better year for each and every one of us!
IMPACT of Southern Arizona: Improving Lives and Inspiring Futures