Thanksgiving Week 2013 - Aching muscles, drenched clothing…and warm spirits…


   Thanksgiving Week 2013
Aching muscles, drenched clothing…and warm spirits…

                As I finally sat down at my keyboard, I glanced at the time and date.  It’s 9:51 A.M. on Wednesday morning, November 27th.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  And what a week this has been…

                Our “Thanksgiving” began back in October when Pam Roberts, Joan Sappenfield, and Vickie Peck  started registering families to receive one of our Baskets and Turkeys from the annual Basket Brigade.  When we stopped registration on October 31st, we had some 1100 families on our list. Throughout November, baskets, turkeys and donations poured.  On Saturday, November 23rd, a team from The Journey Church spent two hours and organized 1300 baskets with all the fixings for a proper Thanksgiving Dinner.  On Sunday, November 24th, Leonard Wierzbowski and the Pope John Paul II High School Football Team and Cheerleaders began cooking the turkeys to be served at our own BHH Thanksgiving meal.  And then Monday morning dawned…

                From Monday morning to Wednesday morning, the amazing team of BHH staff and volunteers distributed 1250 turkeys and baskets to local families.  Those with tickets came on Monday and Tuesday to receive their baskets and turkeys.  On Monday, while all this activity was going on across the street at the Annex, our staff and volunteers in the main facility were handling an overflow crowd. On Monday morning alone, they passed out over 340 pantry bags of groceries…a new one day record at BHH!  Tuesday brought more of the same.  This morning, at 6:45 A.M. in a cold, drenching rain, Bill Harper, Deanna Duke, Natalie Warren, Maureen Cavallaro and volunteers from Lexis-Nexis and F.A.U. were on hand to distribute the remaining turkeys and baskets on a “first come-first served” basis.  In the pouring rain and in the darkness of a Wednesday morning, a steady stream of cars lined up to receive a Thanksgiving Turkey and Basket. 

                Around 8:00 A.M., I returned to my office to take care of some messages.  I had two phone conversations that simply left me speechless.  The Employees of Jarden Consumer Solutions had approved our grant request for funding to replace the aging and inadequate refrigeration unit on Mama Bear…the smaller of our two trucks.  This only increases our capacity for food recovery.  Then I had a conversation with The Jim Moran Foundation.  With the boldness and generosity that characterizes the spirit of Jim Moran himself, the Jim Moran Foundation approved our grant for the second year in a row to be the principal funder for yet another year of Esperanza Catering at Boca Helping Hands.  With additional funding from the Ruth and Hal Launders Charitable Trust, The Hagen Family Foundation, the Larry Luing Foundation, and the Albert and Birdie Einstein Foundation, Esperanza Catering is preparing to double the number or participants in 2014.  This is central to our mission to break the cycle of dependence.  There was little time to celebrate…the line of cars across the street was still growing.

Back outside in the rain, the volunteers and dedicated officers of the Boca Raton Police Department, who had been on hand all week, were steadily loading turkeys and baskets into passing cars.  By 9:30, the last turkey and basket had been passed out.  When all was said and done, our team had passed out over 1350 turkeys and baskets. We were exhausted, cold and wet, but had smiles of contentment. 

Since I began pecking away at my keyboard, some 25 minutes have passed.  The clouds have dispersed, the sun is out and the American Flag is fluttering proudly in the soft breeze (thank you Veterans for you did and still do!).  We can pause from an exhausting week…for a few minutes.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day.  More volunteers will come in, the ovens will be stoked and our team will prepare, box up, deliver and/or serve some 500 complete turkey dinners to local families.  The students at Esperanza Catering have another gig to prepare.  Pantry Bags need to be filled…Job Mentors are meeting with clients. Families are coming to the Resource Center for help. 

Thanksgiving Week 2013.  Just another week here at Boca Helping Hands…


Look at our Thankgiving Basket Brigade photos on

 With respect,

James S. Gavrilos: Executive Director
Boca Helping Hands