It wasn’t difficult, in the runup to Thanksgiving, to find signs of gratitude in West Volusia. Individuals, organizations and private businesses found a cornucopia of ways to give to those less fortunate.
A few examples:
Hard hits this year
Thanksgiving food drives for the holiday season are especially needed this year, said Shilretha Dixon, director of the Joyce M. Cusack Resource Center in the Spring Hill neighborhood of DeLand.
"Hits have been hard this year — how do we get up, brush ourselves off, bring ourselves through the pain and the hurt, the loss of loved ones?” Dixon asked. “This season requires unity, inspiration and fellowship. We have to come together; we have to be that village."
The novel coronavirus pandemic has ended jobs, impoverished families, killed and sickened friends and loved ones, isolated and endangered individuals, and inspired many to come out of their comfort zones to find ways to help.
The Resource Center partnered with City Sanctuary Church and numerous other churches, as well as the Rising Against All Odds mobile health truck, the Florida Department of Health, and the nonprofit Volusia School Fuel, among others, for an event Nov. 17 that provided a community dinner, flu shots, COVID-19 tests and food baskets.
No turkeys on this team
DaVita Labs, in north DeLand, staged a drive-thru turkey giveaway Nov. 18.
“Each year, DaVita Labs hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for its 500 teammates. The pandemic put a halt to that event this year,” DaVita Communications Manager Courtney Culpepper said. “Instead of canceling outright .... DaVita Labs teammates handed out turkeys via a socially distanced mobile pickup line while dressed in their Thanksgiving best — turkey hats and aprons.”
In addition to the turkeys given away at the drive-thru event, 100 turkeys were distributed by DaVita Labs to four Volusia County organizations: The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia, Stetson Baptist Church, Family Renew Community, and the DeLand Fire Department (to help feed firefighters who will be on duty Thanksgiving Day).
The Neighborhood Center
Every year, The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia collects donations from people, agencies and organizations throughout the community and ensures vulnerable people get them.
Along with turkeys from DaVita Labs, The Neighborhood Center has also received food donations from the West Volusia Board of Realtors, and Journey Church, which is providing on-site meals to Neighborhood Center residents.
“It’s amazing to me that even in the midst of this pandemic, that people are still thinking about others, when right now, we would think it’s primarily a time to be selfish. We have our own things going on,” said Neighborhood Center Director of Operations Waylan Niece. “We are appreciative, as an agency, that people in our community step up to assist others in our community. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
‘People Loving People’
Terry “T.J.” Bush was inspired by the Garth Brooks song “People Loving People” to host a Thanksgiving food drive Nov. 15 at McCabe's Bar on North Amelia Avenue in DeLand.
In a kind of self-perpetuating food cycle, Bush organized a full barbecue spread. The price for a meal ticket was a basket of food, which then was donated to The Neighborhood Center.
Any other proceeds were also donated to The Neighborhood Center.
“It’s 2020 — it’s been a crazy world for everybody out there, so if we can just try to help some families in need,” Bush said. “Especially Thanksgiving; it’s a time for family. When you have a good meal to go with that, it makes it a better day.”
It wouldn’t be possible without assistance, he said.
“It comes down to having great friends, people who volunteer and donate their time; community just coming together,” Bush said.
Haymond Van Allan Clay (aka DJ Al) spun beats for the event, and musicians Pete Goldilla and Rebecca Mitchum performed.
Bush intends to make the food drive a yearly event.
The Salvation Army of West Volusia (at 1240 S. High St., DeLand) distributed 500 turkeys to West Volusia residents at a drive-thru event Nov. 19.
In total, nearly 2,000 people were given food.
Though the event began at 11 a.m., cars began lining up as early as 7:30 a.m. By 9:30, a Beacon staffer estimated the line of cars at more than 150, stretching from South High Street to Lisbon Parkway.
Volusia Thanksgiving Basket Brigade
The Volusia Thanksgiving Basket Brigade, a nonprofit organization, distributed some 3,000 boxes of food — each including a gift card for a turkey or ham — to families across Volusia County as part of a drive-thru event Nov. 21.
The Brigade has donated food to the community for the past 20 years, but this year, coordinator Amy Hall said, she saw an even greater need for “a hand up.”
“We had considered not having it this year because of COVID-19,” she said. “But we knew our community needed us to step up and make this happen for them.”
In past years, volunteers stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the Daytona State College Daytona Campus parking lot, distributing baskets of food to families in need. This year, to prevent this act of charity from becoming a COVID-19 superspreader event, a parade of volunteers pulled into the parking lot, opened their trunks and received boxes to deliver to families across the county.
Hall said she loves coordinating the event every year. This time especially, having so many offers from volunteers that some had to be turned down, she said she sees kindness in the Volusia County community at every turn.
“I’m a believer that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is wasted,” Hall told The Beacon. “You go to an orchestra, and there’s a conductor who leads the orchestra. Without the people playing instruments, there’s just a person waving a stick. I’m the conductor, and without the volunteers, there would be nothing.”
New Hope Human Services
In Deltona, New Hope Human Services hosted a drive-thru food giveaway Nov. 21. The event was sponsored by UPS and Care Plus.
This is the eighth year the organization has given out food to families for Thanksgiving. To keep things hygienic, organizer Dot Bradley said, they “just had to use a little creativity.” Grocery bags were distributed to cars as they drove through the parking lot of the New Hope Baptist Church. Bags included turkeys for families of three or larger, and chickens for smaller families.
“This is our way of giving thanks for what we have,” Bradley said. “By being a resource available to the community.”
The Deltona High JROTC distributed turkeys for families in need as part of “Operation Turkey Talk” Nov. 19. The organization organized discreet pick-up locations.
Also, as Thanksgiving approaches, Backpack Buddies is taking requests for holiday food baskets. The organization partners with Second Harvest and the United Way of Volusia and Flagler Counties. Local supermarkets also donate unsold meat, bread and produce that may be frozen or refrigerated for distribution to those in need. For more information, call 386-218-5776.