OAKHURST — Manna House managed to give away more than 250 turkey dinner boxes to families who need them in anticipation of Thanksgiving, despite rumors earlier this year that the venerable charity would cease operation.
Next, just days after their Nov. 26 pre-turkey day distribution, organizers plan to open registration for the Christmas dinner giveaway.
Registration for Christmas is set to begin on Monday, Dec. 2 and continue until 300 families are on the list, or Dec. 18, whichever comes sooner. Christmas boxes will be given away on Dec. 19.
Manna House assistant director Bruce Bartlett was busy helping with the Thanksgiving giveaway when he took some time out to give the community an update on the organization and where donations stand at this time.
“The community has really come through to support Manna House,” explains Bartlett.
“In September this year our donations were down 65%. In September 2012 we had already taken in about $90,000. By that time this year, our total donations were about $37,000 dollars. There was a rumor that got out that Manna House would be closing its doors.”
In fact, the organization was never poised to shut down. Instead, they redoubled their efforts to get the word out, and with the help of generous donations from individuals, businesses and groups, Manna House was able to refill its coffers in every way.
While things are looking up for now, Bartlett cautions that the pantry could empty again, and the bank account fall into the red, if current efforts to help Manna House are not sustained.
“Manna House has been here since 1983, there’s no way that we’re closing our doors, but we needed support from the community. It’s not just a holiday season for donations, we need it year around.
“We will start registering for our Christmas giveaway Monday, Dec. 2, and when we meet our quota of 300 people we tell everyone, ‘don’t worry, there’s always a surplus, there’s always more that comes in. So if you didn’t make the registration you just come in the day of the giveaway and there’s always something there.'”
Bartlett explains that Manna House buys the first 300 meals in order to guarantee they will have enough. When they get more than 300 people who want to register – and Bartlett is certain they will – that’s when the extra donations of food from the community are vital.
“We can always use any Christmas dinner supplies like stuffing, turkey, cranberry and the rest. We can always take food items. Last year on the day of the Christmas giveaway, we had people here at 5:30 in the morning and it was 24 degrees out.”
One thing Barlett says they never have enough of is dog and cat food. For many people, their pet is a companion closer than family, and everyone needs a good meal, around the holidays and beyond.
The day of the Thanksgiving giveaway, people at Manna House were filled with joy and there was a sense of abundance in the air, at least for now.
“People are coming in, they’re cheerful, they’re making donations, bringing in turkeys, asking ‘how’s Manna House, how’s everybody doing?'” Barlett said with gratitude. “People are very interested. It’s like it was a rebirth.”