The desire to reach out to help provide meals for the needy and lonely this Thanksgiving remains strong in Northwest Indiana despite COVID-19 challenges.
While the coronavirus has forced the cancellations of some traditional holiday meal distribution and get-togethers, many churches, nonprofits and businesses have found ways to feed the hungry this Thanksgiving.
In light of COVID-19 safety concerns, free food and meal distribution has gone primarily to pickup only this season, including special Thanksgiving food baskets served at the Winfield Township food pantry this year.
"We serve everyone in Winfield Township," Trustee Paulette Skinner said.
The holiday giving spirit was alive Tuesday morning as Pastor Danny Cox from the Lifewell Christian Church in Winfield delivered some 30 bags of groceries to the Winfield Township food pantry.
It was the second week in a row Cox and his staff had dropped by numerous bags of groceries.
"This is what I call a can-do church," Skinner said of the timely deliveries.
Cox, who came with three other church associates, said his church is only 2 years old, but from the first week has focused on collecting and providing food for the needy, including assisting Rise Against Hunger, a nonprofit organization that provides food to those in developing nations.
"It's part of what we want to do," Cox said.
Here is a list of restaurants, churches and nonprofits offering free Thanksgiving dinners on a pickup basis.
Center Lounge, 1312 119th St., a restaurant in Whiting, will be offering free Thanksgiving Day dinners for anyone, no restrictions. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Thursday. Meals, which include turkey and ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry dressing and rolls, are pickup only this year due to COVID-19, restaurant owner Karen Holmes said.
"Come to our restaurant if you just don't want to cook or you are by yourself," Holmes said.
The restaurant has been offering the free Thanksgiving Day dinners for a number of years and typically serves between 150 and 200 people.
"We give back to the community on that day," Homes said.
Those wanting to pick up a Thanksgiving dinner need to call ahead at 219-659-4080.
Church of the Four Seasons, 9100 E. 109th Ave., Crown Point, is holding a free Thanksgiving drive-thru dinner starting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday while supplies last.
The individual dinners will include turkey, stuffing, a vegetable, mashed potatoes, rolls and dessert.
Those wanting to receive a dinner should reserve their meal by emailing their request to: Cofsmeals@gmail.com by 5 p.m. Monday.
St. John the Evangelist Church in St. John will be serving 750 families with prepared meals on Thanksgiving Day.
Andrew Wolfe, the parish’s pastoral associate for service-outreach and youth ministry, said calls were being taken as of late last week.
Thanks to a parishioner who owns a catering business, the meals are prepared the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The meals are picked up early Thanksgiving morning and, following a holiday Mass, meals are divided among the 40 to 50 volunteer drivers taking the food to families.
“This is a really good initiative by the church, a different level of charity,” Wolfe said. “It’s a simple way of meeting a simple need, but it really can mean a lot.”
The church recently reopened its food pantry, serving 33 families with a total of 120 people.
Salvation Army of Porter County is taking signups to be put on a waiting list for a Thanksgiving food basket. According to Lt. Chris Nicolai at the South Haven site, the number of families served depends on donations received.
The phone number is 219-762-9191. No distribution date has been set, Nicolai said, as it depends on available funds.
This time of year, many local churches sponsor food basket drives for distribution to families in need. Some churches already have reached their maximum number of recipients, they may have a limited number of baskets or gift cards, or they may be serving a specific clientèle. The best way to know is to call a church in your area.
Township trustees may be another source for food baskets, gift cards or nonperishable food items. Some trustee offices contacted reported they hoped to be able to supplement food from their pantries with frozen meats or gift cards. In some cases, trustees’ quotas for holiday charity baskets have passed, while others rely on local churches or other groups to assist. Again, the best way to know is to contact your township trustee.
Food Bank of Northwest Indiana
Joined by several local community partners, the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, based in Merrillville, is preparing for its Hope for the Holidays initiative during November and December.
Under this program, thousands of families in both Lake and Porter counties are helped each year, Food Bank officials said.
"As Northwest Indiana continues to react to the impact the COVID-19 crisis has had on our community, the holidays bring a different set of challenges for individuals and families who are already struggling to make ends meet. We hope that by providing a holiday meal, some of the stress of the season is relieved," said Victor Garcia, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana.
"We are extremely grateful to our sponsors, donors, community partners and volunteers who make these special distributions possible," Garcia said.
The Food Bank of Northwest Indiana has been leading the fight against hunger in the Region since 1982 and distributes nearly 5 million meals annually to children, seniors, individuals and families in Lake and Porter counties.
For the full list of “Hope For The Holidays” food distributions and initiatives, visit www.foodbanknwi.org/HopeForTheHolidays.
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