They lined up by the hundreds Monday, full of gratitude for the generosity and thoughtfulness provided by Holy Family Church in South Pasadena.
One by one those in the crowd – staying safely apart as the coronavirus continues to rage across the country – received a bag full of groceries along with $15 gift certificates redeemable at nearby Grocery Outlet for a turkey or other selection just in time for Thanksgiving.
The Holy Family Food Bank, making some necessary changes in lieu of the virus, continues to be a go-to place for multiple families year after year, appreciative of the special meal and holiday goodness shared by the church. Expressions of gratefulness, from “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” to the deepest “God bless you” were commonplace as those struggling economically, especially during unprecedented COVID-19 times, were genuinely moved by the sincere offering.
“Special adjustments were made due to the pandemic, but the program continues to help the needy during the Thanksgiving season,” said South Pasadena Mayor Bob Joe, saying it was another huge success.
Marlene Moore, the director of Community Services at the church, stressed that individuals remained safe during the handout of goods by standing socially-distanced apart. Her staff arrived early Monday morning to set up, ensuring that all safeguards were put into place before the large gathering, including all ages, denominations and races, came through the long line.
Proudly, the Holy Family Food Bank (HFFB) has become a resource for the less fortunate, regularly helping the less fortunate on Mondays throughout the year while making it an even more positive experience in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas for those thankful seeking a little extra help.
“More often than not at HFFB, the food is waiting for the people, rather than the people waiting for the food,” said Moore.
Using shopping carts like those at local supermarkets, Holy Family officials placed the goods in the basket. Once individuals presented identification usually in the form of a driver’s license – required by the government – they left with carts full of food. After a cart was returned, a person’s I.D. was returned, completing the transaction. Used carts were disinfected, wiped down, “and we started the process all anew,” explained Moore, explaining that carts traveled from station to station where volunteers “placed various items in the cleaned cart area, ready for the next person.”
The system seemed to work effectively on Monday as a team of staff and volunteers kept carts busily moving through the various stages from food filling to cleaning, prompting a smile from Moore. As director, I feel very fortunate to be the one who represents Holy Family and our parishioners, friends and donors,” she said. “Our staff members are the ones who get the privilege of actually giving the food to those who come to us. It’s a privilege to serve.”
The less fortunate, respectfully called “clients,” received an abundance of dry goods, fresh produce, various dairy and meat items along with the gift certificate to be used at Holy Family’s newest community partner – Grocery Outlet, where they could purchase a turkey or an assortment of other food choices.
“We are doing it this way because of the pandemic,” Moore said. “In past years, we would have held a community food drive with Boy Scout Troop 333. Traditionally, the scouts hung door hangers at homes asking for food items. They then returned about a week later to pick up the items. We had become the largest food drive in the nation.”
As a result of COVID-19, Holy Family was unable to conduct its yearly food drive, where community members contributed turkeys and other food items for the big holiday offering. “This year the scouts hung door hangers (throughout the city) explaining that due to the pandemic, we were no longer able to collect food,” noted Moore. “We asked for donations instead and attached envelopes that were pre-addressed to the church.”
She anticipated a pushback from the longstanding tradition to collect turkeys and other items, but instead Moore said, the community has really stepped up. “Everybody has just been so supportive.”
In lieu of the usual large amount of food collected, Holy Family received monetary gifts that were used to purchase the Grocery Outlet gift certificates. Moore said Grocery Outlet is running a special in which customers receive $12 off their turkey if they spend $30, “so their turkey ends up costing only $4 or so,” said Moore, noting, that during Monday’s giveaway carts were full of items for the traditional Thanksgiving meal along with food for other meals.
Along with the weekly distribution of nourishment, Holy Family also serves lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the disadvantaged. In addition, the church sets up a mobile unit on its grounds every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., providing free showers to the homeless.
Holy Family’s Mission is simple, “implemented in a welcoming spirit of Christian love for one another,” as spelled out on its website, “recognizing that all involved are assembled as God’s community.”
While the church’s generosity is shown year-round, its impact seems even more significant during the holiday season. “Thanksgiving means helping others,” insisted Joe, a longtime supporter of the church’s effort to help the underprivileged. “I believe in helping and serving our community. During this Thanksgiving season, we want to learn to be thankful for our blessings. And that means caring for others in need.”