Community encouraged to help provide Thanksgiving meal for thousands

Date Published: 
Nov. 17, 2017

This coming Monday, hundreds of people from across Delmarva will gather together with one simple goal: to give families in need a Thanksgiving meal.

On Monday, Nov. 20, from 8:20 a.m. to 3 p.m., the community is being invited to bundle up and head to Mountaire Farms’ Selbyville warehouse to pack 8,500 boxes of food.

“We’ll have 300-some people coming out. We have people from all over the peninsula who want to come. We have parents with children who want to come with them. I got a call from a fella in Baltimore who wanted to come with his kids,” said Roger Marino, Mountaire’s corporate community relations director.

The boxes each contain a selection of 16-ounce canned goods, including corn and beans, as well as stuffing and pork-and-beans, which organizers of the effort request be donated at various area grocery stores, including Hocker’s Super Center. Each box also contains a Mountaire roaster chicken, donated by the company.

Many of the canned goods packed into box are collected from drives at area grocery stores — Giant stores in Rehoboth Beach, Long Neck and Millville; Safeway in Rehoboth Beach; Hocker’s Super Center in Clarksville and Bethany Beach; Wal-Mart in Rehoboth Beach and Georgetown, and Berlin, Md.; Redner’s in West and North Dover, Georgetown, Camden and Milford; and Save-A-Lot in Millsboro and Seaford.

“That Saturday, we had 140 people in 17 markets collecting food, passing out our literature and talking to people about the program. They were volunteering their time and their effort.”

Thanksgiving for Thousands is an event that was created by Mountaire Farms more than 20 years ago, and it has grown steadily over the years.

“Twenty-three years ago, we noticed a problem in the community with people who were needing food for Thanksgiving. With the Dagsboro Church of God, they told me they wouldn’t be able to serve their people that year because they had 100 people who would come through for dinner. Their kitchen and facilities were too small to be able to accommodate them, so I said, ‘Let me see what I can do.’

“They got together with us, and we started a drive. The initial drive we started was just collecting money in the community, putting out cans and jars in the stores and then using that money to purchase food. In the first year, we did 300 boxes. We didn’t hear a complaint or a need any more than that.”

After the first year, Marino said, he approached Mountaire’s president about boxing food to be given out on an annual basis.

“He liked the idea, and we started boxing the food and getting more people in the community involved. From that, it just rose and rose and rose over the years to what it is today… It just grew every year.”

Those who attend will be able to snack on hot beverages and cookies and listen to holiday music while helping to pack the boxes.

Job applications for Mountaire will also be available at that time, for those looking for work. Marino said a number of employees who have applied at Thanksgiving for Thousands have been hired and had successful careers at the company.

This year, Mountaire is working with 168 organizations, finding out how many boxes they need, with 400 boxes earmarked for last-minute requests.

“We have organizations we work with each year. We’ll contact them, and they’ll let us know how many people they have and what the need is there. That’s how we build the boxes,” he explained.

Marino said working with the organizations is the way Mountaire can check the pulse of the need in the community.

“These people, the organizations themselves know — these are truly needy, hurting people,” he said. “They vet the people. They know what’s going on. I feel certain that when theses boxes go out they are really going out to people who need the help.”

Giving back to the community is of great importance to Mountaire, said Marino, noting the company hosts three big food events every year, beyond the charitable giving they do on a regular basis.

“It’s part of our creed, really, to be good stewards. That’s the main thing — of all the assets that God has entrusted to us, we feel we’re very lucky and fortunate to have a company that is growing. It’s all about giving back.

“This program has caught the hearts of so many people. The spirit has caught on, and it becomes the kickoff for the holiday season. We feel are the most important holidays of the year — Thanksgiving for Thousands, Thanksgiving at Christmas and Thanksgiving at Easter. Each holiday, it’s time to give back. It’s thanks-giving for all that our good Lord has been able to give to us, to provide for us. While we do so much else throughout the year, these are three very, very important holidays for us.”

Those who will help pack on Monday are from all walks of life — from individuals who are in need themselves to church groups and even the Sussex Technical High School football team.

“It’s euphoric. If you didn’t have religion before, you get it that day. When you see all those people — people coming in walking, people coming in wheelchairs, every age group, the entire football team from Sussex Tech — with all of those people really wanting to be there and getting into the holiday spirit, the giving spirit.

“To them, it’s almost like they have ownership in those boxes. Every one of those boxes they’re packing, they feel they have a part in handing it to someone who’s really needing it. That’s really what I see there. I’ve seen it over the years, the spirit gets greater and greater every year. That’s why people want to come.”

Marino encouraged all who can attend, even for a short while, to do so, and see the impact a community can have by working together to feed so many in need.

“You have to witness it to understand it. Even if you didn’t participate, just pull up and take a look — see it.”

For those who wish to volunteer, Mountaire Farms’ warehouse is located at the corner of Hosier Street and Railroad Avenue in Selbyville. For more information about Mountaire’s community outreach programs, visit www.mountairefarms.com.