DENVER — Call it a labor of love or a way to give back to the community. At food kitchens across the state, one by one, volunteers have lined up this Thanksgiving to cook, pack and distribute thousands of meals to families in need.
At Welton Street Café’s temporary location, a group of volunteers has been busy in the kitchen for days, cooking everything from turkey to mashed potatoes, yams, green beans and more.
“Holidays always bring out the fact that people don't have people, and we are here for the people. Holidays bring up a ton of different emotions, and it's just like, 'Hey, how can we be your extended family? You know, who's cooking you a meal this holiday?'” said co-owner Fathima Dickerson.
The group is working with the new North East Denver Holiday Philanthropy Coalition to try to deliver 8,000 meals this Thanksgiving.
“You know, this is a complete sacrifice of your holiday, your time with your family, your time off. This is a selfless act,” Dickerson said.
These meals were made possible by a donation from Denver investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith.
After being prepared and packed at Welton Street Café, the meals are taken to Park Hill Golf Course to be distributed over the next couple of days. Families can either swing by to pick one up or have the meals delivered to their door.
“We want to just help those who have been down, right? We know that we don't want to give a handout, we want to give a hand up,” said Sondra Young, president of the Denver branch of the NAACP. “We know this is the underserved community that definitely needs help.”
Community organizer Norman Harris said the past couple of years have been tough for families in this community, and every person he’s delivered a meal to so far has been grateful for a little extra help.
“The gas tank, the grocery store, your rent, everything is priced high right now. So, at a time at the end of the year when families are trying to save, we think that this just could give a little bit of boost to make some folks happy,” Harris said.
Lathosa Britt was one of the many who came by the golf course to pick up a free meal. She was planning on spending Thanksgiving with friends but found out last night that her daughter has COVID-19.
She thought about trying to run to the grocery store to buy all of the ingredients to make her own Thanksgiving meal but said it doesn’t make sense to prepare a big meal for just three people.
Instead, she opted to pick up one of the free meals being offered to save herself money and the hassle of cooking while still offering her kids a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
“We will have a traditional dinner, and I don't have to run around,” Britt said. “It's really important to have a dinner, and I'm really grateful that they were able to provide this.”
While groups like Welton Street Café are preparing meals for Thanksgiving, others like Project Angel Heart are working ahead. Volunteers in the kitchen Wednesday were cooking and putting together meals for families for the days and week after Thanksgiving.
The group of 7,000 volunteers provides weekly meals for families dealing with tough medical diagnoses like cancer, heart disease, renal failure and more. The meals are tailored to meet the unique nutritional needs of their clients.
The group said it knows how important its work is, particularly around the holidays.
“At this time of year when people are experiencing isolation at even higher rates and trying to navigate a serious diagnosis at the same time, it can be really difficult. So, our small piece to give them that encouragement and sustain them is not only the meals but our volunteers who drive and deliver all of those meals and give them that extra piece of human contact and love,” said Tera Prim, Project Angel Heart’s chief development officer.
The group will take Thursday off to rest for the holiday, but will be back in the kitchen preparing and delivering meals on Friday and said it can always use more volunteers to help.