Niagara Gazette

November 24, 2013

Local efforts providing several options for a Thanksgiving feast for the needy

Local efforts providing several options 
for a Thanksgiving feast for the needy

By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Thanksgiving will be abundant for everyone in the Niagara region this Thanksgiving Day, despite what volunteers say is a rising need.

There are several free dining options, including the ever-popular Lord’s Day Dinner and a “Feed the Falls” meal-delivery initiative by the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission.

Last year over 900 Thanksgiving meals were delivered throughout the city by volunteers of the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission. 

This year the mission hopes to home deliver about 1,000 meals in Niagara Falls, said Shaun Smith, director of the mission, and more families are being sought for the sign-up. 

The Thanksgiving meals the mission volunteers deliver come from The Chapel in Amherst where a chef prepares the turkeys. 

“They do all the cooking for us,” he noted. “What we do is we reheat on Thanksgiving Day.”

The distribution point for the meals is the Assemblies of God Church on Niagara Falls Boulevard, where volunteers gather at 9 a.m. to assemble meals and typically finish by 1 p.m. 

The missions efforts brings in dozens of volunteers to assemble and deliver the meals to any and all who wish to partake, Smith said. “People are blessed by this, both the people who give and people who receive,” he added.  Those who wish to order dinners can sign up  at www.niagara or call the mission at 253-1GOD.

“Thanksgiving is just the tip of the iceberg to what we do all year long,” he said of his mission house at 1023 Ferry. “We do Thanksgiving every day. We do Christmas everyday. All 365 days a year we care for the poor,” he said. “We do over 2,200 meals a month right now,” he added. “We offer three meals a day.”

Smith encourages more families in the city to call and request the free meals. 

“We’re a little behind in receiving calls,” Smith said on Thursday, when he only had 300 meal requests. “We’re kind of panicking. We’re having a lot of turkey being cooked so we are looking for families who want a meal delivered.”

Those who want the fellowship of a sit down meal can join the hundreds of diners expected between noon and 6 p.m. at the LaSalle Griffon VFW post at 2435 Seneca Ave., at the Lord’s Day Dinner, created by Yvonne  and Matthew Davis, who orchestrate a volunteer effort to create cook and create a Thanksgiving meal, from their Ashland Avenue home.

Despite being setback from a flood in their home this summer, the couple will continue to lead this 30-year-tradition, but they could use a little help. On Thursday they were still in need of donations. “We try to get at least 30 some turkeys,” said Yvonne. “Right now we have about a good 10 or 15. We’d like another 15 and hams too.”

“I feel we are a little bit behind track but as in previous years, the closer we get to the actual event the support really comes through,” she added. “It’s amazing how many people you see in Niagara Falls willing to step up and help out. That’s the best part. That’s beautiful.” Those who want to donate, volunteer or have a home meal delivered can call the Davis home at 284-6973.

The Lord’s Day Dinner, which the Davis’ and volunteers also serve at Christmas and Easter, attracted about 400 diners for Thanksgiving last year and Yvonne expects more this year. 

Davis said that due to the recent cut in food stamps in New York state, she expects a 20 percent increase in attendance at the meal on Thursday. 

She’s not the only one who predicts more needy families.

Hoffman, of the Community Mission, said that crisis housing numbers are already up 20 percent at the Buffalo Avenue mission and  “We still have the coldest weeks of the year ahead of us.”

Also seeing a disturbing rise in need is Sister Beth Brosmer, director of Heart, Love and Soul food panty on Ontario Street.

“What concerns me is the number of new faces we’re seeing,” Brosmer said, noting a surprising response to a recent monthly food truck delivery from the Western New York Food Bank. “We had 181 households sign up, the most we’ve ever had before. It really  kind of startled us.”

While Heart, Love and Soul will be closed on Thursday and Friday, turkeys, chickens and other Thanksgiving items were distributed to clients of the food kitchen on Friday. The center will be closed on Thanksgiving, and clients will be directed to the Davis’s dinner at the VFW on Seneca Street.  

However, Heart, Love and Soul staff will be preparing a special Thanksgiving meal in advance of the holiday, at lunchtime on Tuesday for any who wish to attend, at the Ontario Avenue soup kitchen and food pantry.

Also serving an advance holiday meal is the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, who will be providing a meal at 6 p.m. at the Doris Jones Family Resource Building, 3001 9th St. The free event is open to the public and those seeking more information can contact the authority at 285-5374.

Lastly, while the Community Missions on Buffalo Ave. will be closed on Thanksgiving. Their clients have been invited to a meal Thursday at the Hard Rock Cafe. About 235 people have received tickets to attend a free meal at the restaurant, where staff will be serving a banquet with all the trimming, said the Community Mission’s Hoffman.

“They do everything,” he said of the Hard Rock meal, which is provided only to ticket holders. “The waiters there serve everybody. They do door prizes. They give away hats and gloves. Most everybody we from the mission is working, driving vans, dropping people off and picking people up.”

People who call the mission with offers to volunteer will be politely redirected, he said. “It’s hard because everybody calls and wants to helps out on Thanksgiving. We tell them please come back on Black Friday or any other day of the year. We can always use the help.”

Hoffman encouraged those who wish to volunteer at the Community Missions to drop by on “Giving Tuesday,” Dec. 3, a new movement to encourage people to assist non-profits during the holiday seasons. For more information on that event, people can contact the Buffalo Avenue mission at 285-3403.

Thanksgiving Dinners MONDAY • 6 p.m. at the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building, 3001 9th St. Free and open the the public. For information contact Owen Steed Sr., at 990-6518. TUESDAY • Heart Love and Soul Food Pantry, 939 Ontario Ave. Call 282-5681 for more information. THURSDAY • The Lords Day Dinner at the LaSalle Griffon VFW post, 2435 Seneca Ave. Free and open to all. To volunteer or contribute or to sign up for home delivery for the elderly and wheelchair bound, call 284-6973. • The Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission's Feed the Falls initiative will deliver meals to anyone who asks. They can be reached at 253-1GOD • The HardRock Cafe, 333 Prospect St., Niagara Falls, by advance ticket only through the Community Missions. All tickets have been distributed.