Communities Step Up to Meet Holiday Need

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It's not just the weather that's disrupting people's plans for Thanksgiving.

Cuts to food stamp benefits and tighter family budgets have many people turning to their communities for help this year. There are dozens of organizations in the area handing out full meals, but even they can't keep up with the demand.

"I'd probably eat a bowl of cereal for Thanksgiving," Okemos resident Teresa Wolanksy said. She cut out meat from her diet recently, but not by choice.

"I like turkey," Wolansky said.

Because of her food stamp benefits being cut, Wolansky can no longer afford a Thanksgiving meal. But this year she can have her turkey and eat it, too, thanks to the holiday food basket program in Meridian Township.

"People believe this is a very affluent community, but they also don't understand the variety of incomes in the township, and the fact that there is definitely a segment of people that are struggling," Meridian Township Human Services Director Darla Jackson said.

About 13 percent of people in Meridian Township live below the poverty level. The donated baskets include essentials for Thanksgiving, but also some extra essentials for day-to-day living. This year there's a waiting list to receive one.

"Each year it seems to have grown a little bit further," Jackson said. "The need is definitely out there."

The need is just as great in Lansing. Old Town's Compassionate Feast is helping a record number of families this year, providing a Thanksgiving box, complete with a dish to cook the turkey in, and ingredients to make pumpkin pie.

"We're doing 172 families today, and there are so many other organizations across this city that are doing at least that many as well," Old Town Commercial Association Executive Director Louise Gradwohl said. "So, you multiply that, and it's a lot of folks in this area. So, it's sad, but it's great that there are people out there making a difference."

It's a difference families are already looking forward to.

"It will definitely make it a much brighter holiday," Shannon Harris said after picking up her Compassionate Feast box.

It also makes it a holiday worth celebrating.

"I feel so thankful," Wolanksy said.

Both the holiday basket program and Compassionate Deast still need donations. If you want to help, visit the links below.

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