Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Story of Thanksgiving to Share This Holiday Season

By Karen Navarro

In November an appeal went out far and wide for help putting together 75-100 Thanksgiving Week food boxes for families who might not have enough food for not only Thanksgiving Day, but the entire week. While the children were out of school, they would not be getting school breakfasts and lunches. This is the story about how a whole lot of individuals, companies and organizations came together to make this happen.

The non-profit organization, Help Equals Hope, was in need of all food stuffs for these boxes, including the most expensive item, turkeys. Co-founders, Laura Burnett, Nancy Hays, Lisa Wilson and Bev Moore, reached out for some major volunteer help.

Two core volunteers, Debbie Trujillo and Debbie Vigil, immediately responded, as did others in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Community Alliance. Fofo Voltaire offered her large event space, The Event Palace, free for the project, and many sponsors offered their assistance, including the Sandia chapter of Thrivent Financial, Guardian Storage (on Eagle Ranch Rd.), Chick fil-A (at Montgomery/San Mateo), and Smith’s Grocery Store (on Golf Course Rd.).

Other key contributors were the Route 66 Civitans, ABQ Health Partners, Pacific Dental Group, Juliette Applegate, Pegasus Legal Services for Children, Nathan Waites and W.I.N. (What’s Important Now), General Mills, Outcomes, Inc., Sweetheart Day Care (owner, Joan Davis), Donna Montano, Sol Acting Academy, GN Services, Inc., !explora!, Décor & More! Sports, and staff members from New Futures School.

Jeff Turocotte
35 Turkeys from St. Pius X
As Thanksgiving week approached, the organizers realized they needed 30+ turkeys. Jeff Turcotte at St. Pius X High School heard about this and the next day the boys’ and girls’ cross-country track teams he coaches rallied the money in three hours to purchase 35 turkeys, with help from members of the girls’ soccer team! When thanked, Jeff responded, "Glad our team could help your great team! Happy Thanksgiving!"

So in the end, what were the results of this community wide effort?
95 Thanksgiving food boxes with turkeys, stuffing, sweet potatoes, potatoes, canned vegetables, cranberry sauce, bread/rolls, chile, olives, rice, cereal, beans, gravy mix, desserts and drink mix.
At the direction of Help Equals Hope, a vast network of individuals, organizations and sponsors had all pitched in to feed 95 grateful families in need identified by social workers and other staff at schools, medical facilities and social service agencies, including:

  • grandparents raising grandchildren (some with GAPP—Grandparents as Parents Program), 
  • the families of clients at UNMH health clinics, 
  • UNMH Psychiatric Center, 
  • YDI (including Casa Hermosa and Centro de Amor), 
  • UNM Forensics Case Management, 
  • MCH Family Outreach, 
  • Petroglyph Elementary, 
  • Headstart,
  • ten families in To’hajiilee.
Testimonials of gratitude poured in:

“The clients we delivered food boxes to were crying and so appreciative!”

Debbie Trujillo, Debbie Vigil, Laura Burnett, Nancy Hays
Food boxes “went to individuals and families who have next to nothing. Some of those people have had their food stamp money cut in recent months from $150 to $20.”

“One grandparent family has four grandchildren and was thrilled. She said she didn’t know how she was going to do Thanksgiving and then I called. Perfect timing!”

Another Help Equals Hope project
Help Equals Hope collects school supplies and backpacks year-round for children in New Mexico whose parents can’t afford to purchase them. Their major school supply drive is in August, but they gather monetary and in-kind donations year-round. Children are referred by school principals, teachers, counselors, social workers, police and sheriff department officers, court personnel, including probation and parole officers, and other professionals working with children throughout New Mexico. If you can help, please email Laura Burnett (laura@helpequalshope.org) or call her at (505) 715-0091. (Check out the Help Equals Hope Facebook Page)

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