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Madelyn Lazorchak, Communications Writer11/22/2022

At this time of year, as individuals across the country contemplate the things they're grateful for, many NeighborWorks network organization do what they do year round: They help residents get what they need. That includes providing access to food. Some organizations help by setting up food pantries. Others connect residents to pantries at partnering organization. 

Thousands of turkeys

Penquis, a network organization in Maine, is making sure residents have what they need to celebrate A group of donors stand with shopping carts full of turkeys.the Thanksgiving holiday, conducting a turkey drive for the whole community. "Every year, we do more," says Renae Muscatell, community relations manager at Penquis. 

This year, the organization collected more than 6,500 turkeys to distribute to food pantries. "It's a record this year in a lot of different ways," Muscatell says, speaking from a parking lot outside of a refrigerated truck full of turkeys. For one, the organization has a record number of requests. They also have more partners. 

"A lot of people from working families can't make ends meet, so people who have never used food pantries before are using them," Muscatell explains. More than 100 organizations in 10 counties receive turkeys through this program. Maine has 16 counties overall. This year, new partners include Cancer Care of Maine, along with partners to help families in more rural areas. 

Those who run food pantries have said that without Penquis' food drive, they wouldn't have manyA girl and her father stand with a turkey. turkeys to give out. "This has been most helpful to Gateway Community Food Bank," a representative says. "Since Covid hit, things have drastically changed for a lot of our clients, I feel that many of them would not have a holiday feast."

Another organization told Muscatell this week that having food on the table for the Thanksgiving holiday symbolizes hope for many families.

The importance of partnerships

Shontez Wynn, kitchen manager for Meals on Wheels & More at Community Action Parntership of North Alabama (CAPNA), says her organization has partnered with Publix grocery store to get more donations for their program. "I really appreciate the partnership," she says. "We couldn't fulfill all the hunger issue for the recipients that we serve if it wasn't for Publix generosity to give back to the communities and fight hunger."

The nonprofit provides nutritional meals to older and disabled residents who cannot leave their homes. Program volunteers also provide "well checks" to see if residents have other needs that the nonprofit can fulfill. The organization also partners with churches for major holidays, who help with food distribution and care bags. 

Wynn says CAPMA has needed partners, especially this year, as the cost of food has increased. "Without that, we're not able to meet the demand," she says. The organization's program has been around since 1972.

An emergency crew makes a turkey donation in a unique way. PHOTO/Penquis
NeighborWorks supports both organizations in a variety of ways. "We've received calls and messages of support and encouragement this week from our fellow NeighborsWork members," shares Muscatell. "Knowing we are all doing our part as a network to strengthen our communities across the country is a wonderful feeling!"


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