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Food pantries help meet holiday need
Fredericksburg-area food pantries prepare for Thanksgiving.

 Daniel Angulo-Negron loads a Thanksgiving dinner box into a car at SERVE at Stafford Courthouse. Area food pantries are scrambling to collect enough turkeys to help struggling families in the region have holiday meals.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 11/17/2011

BY KATIE THISDELL

Food pantries in the area are counting their turkeys.

And they still need more to help families celebrate Thanksgiving next week.

For the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank, which supports some 70 nonprofit agencies, 5,000 turkeys is a lofty goal--more than they gave out last year.

"The need is greater than ever," said Dayle Reschick, resource development director for the food bank. "It's putting a real strain on everyone, on the food pantries and on us."

The month of November typically has the greatest donations and need because of the focus on Thanksgiving, said food bank executive director Oya Oliver. Many drives in December are focused on toys and gifts.

"Food is necessary all year round," Oliver said.

Earlier this week, the food bank received 750 turkeys from Giant Food in honor of the grocery store chain's 75th anniversary.

Giant also donated turkeys to four other Feeding America food banks.

"It was a nice surprise," Oliver said.

The food bank has purchased 2,500 turkeys to cover the remaining need.

A food pantry in Stafford County will begin distributing Thanksgiving food boxes today, while one in Spotsylvania will hand them out on Tuesday.

SERVE, near Stafford Courthouse, will provide all the fixings for about 150 families, said director Marilyn Stevens.

"What I've noticed is that whereas our numbers are staying the same, the need is going up," Stevens said.

Because of the website charitytracker.net, Stevens said, local organizations are able to see who has already helped whom.

"We're not being double-dipped like we used to, and we're able to provide for more people," Stevens said.

The food pantry, which also provides emergency assistance, serves the regional planning district covering Spotsylvania, Stafford, King George and Caroline counties and the city of Fredericksburg.

"I would love to get some more $10 grocery store gift cards," Stevens said. "We're going to have trouble providing turkey and meat after a while."

Several groups have held fundraisers for SERVE recently, including Boy and Girl Scout troops and the Falls Run community.

"Days are hard, but so many people are digging deeper, and that's just reflective in all these donations," Stevens said.

Volunteer-run SECA also is prepping Thanksgiving boxes for Spotsylvania residents.

Corn, yams, dressing, cranberry sauce, soup and bread will accompany a frozen turkey for families. Robert Newton, who started SECA in 1986, says the pantry needs at least 10 more turkeys before the boxes are handed out Tuesday.

Last year, he said, the agency at Spotsylvania Courthouse distributed food to 30 families--which could benefit up to 150 people.

"It used to be elderly people coming in, and now it's younger families with children," Newton said.

While many request Thanksgiving aid ahead of time, Newton said there will not be a cutoff.

In October, SECA gave 14,000 pounds of food to 201 families, which fed 683 people.

"We'll make it with the help of people," Newton said.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975
Email: kthisdell@freelancestar.com


SECA: Take donations to the agency behind the Marshall Center at Spotsylvania Courthouse, 8812 Courthouse Road. The group accepts used clothes and household items for its thrift store, along with food and money. SECA is open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays. 540/582-2465. SERVE: Food donations will be accepted 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. today through Saturday. Especially needed are turkeys and $10 grocery-store gift cards. Send financial donations to: SERVE, Box 1357, Stafford, Va. 22555. 540/288-9603. FREDERICKSBURG AREA FOOD BANK: Take donations to 3631 Lee Hill Drive, Fredericksburg. Call 540/371-7666. You may also donate money online at fredfood.org.

Two ways to help this weekend are to take frozen turkeys to 9 Greenland Court, Fredericksburg, on Saturday, or to donate blood at the Spotsylvania Towne Center food court entrance. Bloom grocery stores will donate a turkey to the food bank for each pint donated. Hours will be 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.