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Organizations overcome pandemic obstacles to serve clients on Thanksgiving
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Organizations overcome pandemic obstacles to serve clients on Thanksgiving

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Nonprofit and community agencies across Burke County are gearing up for the Thanksgiving holiday next week.

Holidays have always been a challenging time for these agencies and the families they serve, but this year, a sharply worsening global pandemic threatens to bring unprecedented new obstacles for these agencies. Here is a look at how a few local nonprofits are working to meet these challenges to help provide a happy Thanksgiving for those they serve.

  •  Burke United Christian Ministries

Burke United Christian Ministries had every intention of providing an outdoor, sit-down Thanksgiving meal at its soup kitchen. But due to the worsening nature of COVID-19 and tightening restrictions on gatherings, those plans were abandoned.

“We want to be able to do all the things we’ve always done, but with the ordinance from the governor, we’ve had to back up,” said Alice Horton, the ministry's executive director. “We’ve decided that it’s going to be completely to-go so we can try to keep everybody safe.”

In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, the ministry also is giving away turkeys to families who need them. Horton said the ministry has already given away more than 100 turkeys and hopes to get some more in the next few days.

To go with the turkeys, the ministry is sponsoring a holiday meal drive for clients. Horton encourages community members to put together a full holiday meal to be donated to a family in need.

“This is going to be a very different holiday for all of us,” she said. “But this is a really neat way to reach out to people.”

Horton hopes the ministry will have an opportunity to return to normal soon, but remains committed to helping people in any way she can during these difficult times.

For information about donating to the Thanksgiving meal drive, call the ministry at 828-433-8075.

  • The Outreach Center

On Tuesday, The Outreach Center will hold its end-of-the-month food distribution. In addition to the U.S. Department of Agriculture food, dry goods and pet food usually available, Case Farms has donated 700 chickens to be distributed for Thanksgiving.

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“The distribution takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or until we run out, whichever comes first,” said Bianca Moses, the center's director of community relations. “The end-of-the-month distribution is our largest, so be prepared to wait and please wear a mask.”

This has been a challenging year for the ministry in logistics and the increased need in the community.

“We have had to reconfigure our distributions so that we function with the maximum amount of safety for our staff, volunteers and clients,” Moses said. “We’ve seen the need increase every week, and with the holidays coming, we know the need for the food that is integral to the holiday season is going to be especially important.”

The center’s staff and volunteers have been preparing for weeks to provide as many people as possible a Thanksgiving meal.

“I think people are wanting that feeling of normalcy, and the holidays somehow provide that,” Moses said. “We will get through this, and until it’s over, we will be there to assist in any way we can.”

The center’s food distribution will take place at its parking lot at 510 E. Fleming Drive in Morganton. Volunteers are always needed to help with the distribution. To learn about volunteering with the center, call 828-439-8300.

  •  Options Inc.

This year, Options Inc., a domestic violence shelter in Morganton, will still offer a Thanksgiving dinner for its residents, with food provided by the Morganton Day School, said Kristy Graf, the shelter's executive director. The organization will have enough food to help many former clients provide Thanksgiving meals for their families as well.

Graf said that Thanksgiving is usually the beginning of Options’ Christmas adoption program, in which community members can provide Christmas presents to a family impacted by domestic violence.

“We usually have a holiday party for clients and former clients,” Graf said, “We’re not going to be able to do that this year, though.”

Graf believes that distributing the food and Christmas gifts without risking exposure to COVID-19 will be one of their bigger challenges this year. The shelter is planning to schedule appointments so families can pick up their donations to lower their risk of exposure. Graf believes, however, that having to cancel the shelter's holiday social activities will still be a significant drawback, especially for children.

“One of the things we try to do is model what healthy family life looks like, but we can’t do that right now,” Graf said. “There are other options, though, and we just want to get the word out. Our crisis volunteers are here to talk to you 24 hours a day.”

To adopt a family as part of Options’ Christmas Adoption program or to learn more about services offered, call the shelter at 828-438-9444.

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