Thanksgiving will be a little cheerier and tables a little more full for many in Rappahannock County thanks to the efforts of volunteers and donors at the Rappahannock Food Pantry.
At the Pantry building on Mt. Salem Avenue in Washington, volunteers loaded turkey, greens, potatoes, pie and other food into a steady stream of vehicles that pulled up outside the pantry from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.
The recipients have been receiving food from the pantry during its normal hours of operation on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and so were eligible this week to get a little extra in the form of a share of the Thanksgiving bounty. Family size determined how much they could collect.
A total of 524 individuals were expected to receive the holiday handout over the two days, according to Mimi Forbes, pantry manager.
Twenty-three volunteers worked in two shifts over the two days. Recipients were given appointment times to show up for their share. Volunteers worked quickly to load the vehicles so they wouldn’t stack up on the circular driveway.
There weren’t enough pies to give one to each person so a lottery system was devised. Each person who drove up for a load of Thanksgiving food picked a slip of paper from a basket Forbes held to find out if he or she could also get a pumpkin pie.
“I got a turkey and a pie, I think it’s pumpkin. I’m not sure,” said Robin of Flint Hill, who gave just her first name. “I come here regularly. They’ve always been very caring,” she said of those who staff the pantry, most of whom are volunteers. “They are wonderful people who would give the shirt off their back.”
Robin said she is disabled after being injured on the job. She is a single mom with four children.
George, of Washington, said he got a “turkey and all the trimmings.” He said he was a landscape surveyor but has been out of work for a while. He lives with his wife and their three children, all of whom are adults but they moved back home “when things got bad.
“There are just no jobs around. I’ve applied to 35 to 40 places,” he said. The pantry “has been a life-saver. If I didn’t have them it would be impossible to make it.”
Wilbur of Gid Brown collected a turkey, corn, carrots, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes and a pie on Monday. He said he was expecting his sister-in-law and her husband and two grandchildren for Thanksgiving dinner. “It helps, but it doesn’t go the whole way” to feed them, he said of food he picked up on Monday.
Laura Smoot of Harris Hollow got a turkey, greens and a pie for Thanksgiving. “I’m not sure how many” will come for dinner, she said. “I know there will be at least three of us – my daughter, granddaughter and me.”
Smoot said she usually makes a trip to the pantry twice a month. She said she is retired and not able to work anymore.
Forbes said she ordered 250 turkeys from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank in Winchester and expected to get 210, which might or might not be enough to go around. She said she expected at least 200 families. The turkeys weighed between nine and 12 pounds.
The 33 pies came from a fundraiser at Rappahannock County High School. The pies were made and sold by the culinary arts class. Purchasers were given the opportunity to donate their pie back to the pantry.
Waterpenny Farm contributed 127 pounds of turnips, lettuce, peppers and bok choi. St. Andrew’s Gleaners, a volunteer group that seeks donations from area farms, provided 1,600 pounds of turnips.
Every box handed out by the pantry volunteers also included dressing, instant potatoes, gravy, cranberries, yams, corn and green beans. There were also onions, carrots and potatoes available.
Sandra Cartwright-Brown of F.T. Village has been a volunteer at the food pantry for about four months.
“Usually I don’t come here on Monday but it’s a special day,” she said. She called pantry manager Forbes “very organized with an outgoing personality. She had me calling people who were supposed to come today” but hadn’t shown up at their appointed time.
Forbes was checking names off her list as each recipient showed up. At 3 p.m. Monday, cars were still trickling in with an hour to go.
It would be another long day on Tuesday with distributions expected to continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers would be back to help load cars again and probably end feeling gratified they could help.
“It’s needed,” Cartwright-Brown summed up.