With the local economy worse this year than last, Scotiabank marketing manager Sadie Clendinen said she thought this year’s Scotiabank "Share the JOY of Thanksgiving" food drive might reflect the ailing economy. It did, but not the way Clendinen feared.
"We did better than ever this year," she said Tuesday. "People must have given even more because they were more aware of the needs of others less fortunate."
Some of the bounty of the weekend’s food drive was distributed at a small ceremony at PriceSmart on Tuesday morning, where six shopping carts stuffed with bright red bags spilled over the carts with all manner of nonperishable groceries.
Six more carts equally overflowing with groceries were collected on Saturday, Clendinen said, praising her fellow workers. "It’s a big job, but everyone was happy to pitch in," she said.
Arlene Monaghan, director of Clear Blue Sky Clubhouse, a not-for-profit dedicated to assisting Virgin Islanders suffering from mental illness, and Capt. Shawn Hovatter of the Salvation Army, happily accepted the largess which will be cooked into hundreds of Thanksgiving dinners.
Clendinen said the nonperishable food accumulated this month at drop-off locations on all three islands. On St. Thomas, bins were placed at Food Center and PriceSmart; on St. Croix at Cost-You-Less and Schooner Bay Market Place; and on St. John at the Pine Peace Mini Market.
The food collected on St. Croix was distributed to the Women’s Coalition of St. Croix and Lutheran Social Services, and Clendinen said they were overwhelmed at the largesse.
On St. John donations were sent to the St. John Community Foundation.
St. Thomas PriceSmart manager Byron Plaza said, "Our shoppers and employees really embraced the program."
While Monaghan said she anticipates about 25 for Thanksgiving dinner at Clear Blue Sky Clubhouse, Hovatter said the Salvation Army anticipates about 12 times that many.
"We expect about 300," he said. "We’ll have tables for folks to sit down and eat in the chapel for the day."
Hovatter said that so far more than 60 turkeys have been donated. "We won’t cook all of them," the captain said. "We will distribute them to other charities and to senior citizens who can come and pick them up."
Local hotels are cooking the 30 birds they will serve Thursday, he said. "The Ritz-Carlton, Sugar Bay and Frenchman’s Reef will cook 10 each," Hovatter said. Which is just as well, as the Salvation Army’s tiny kitchen can barely accommodate room for carving one bird at a time. Each year a dedicated staff of more than 20 volunteers lines up outside the kitchen to dispense the bounty to one and all.
Though the Salvation Army feast will be huge, Monaghan has another point of view. "We will serve about 25" at Clear Blue Sky, she said, adding that the lower expected turnout is good news. “About five of our members apologized to me that they wouldn’t attend this year because their families want them at home.”
With a big smile, Monaghan said, "That was wonderful news. We want our members to be accepted in their families’ homes. That is very rewarding."
She added, "Sometimes members’ families don’t want them home for the holidays because they can be disruptive, so this is progress."
Monaghan praised Scotiabank for its effort. "Our thanks go to all the generous people who contributed," she said. "We will be able to provide our members with a wonderful holiday dinner and the donations allow us to stock the pantry to provide meals for weeks to come."
Hovatter echoed Monaghan’s praise. "We serve lunch all week long, not just on holidays," he said, "so the donations keep us going."
Clendinen said the food drive, now in its fourth year, has provided carloads of groceries and 25 turkeys to local charities each year. She said, "As we all sit down to our holiday tables, we will do so knowing that a great many of our neighbors, who might not have been able to, are doing the same."