Summit Interfaith Council works to stuff 400 Thanksgiving To Go holiday meal bags
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct Terese Keil’s email address and to credit St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church for hosting past Thanksgiving dinners in Breckenridge.
FRISCO — Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, and for many community members around Summit County, it’s an opportunity to reach out and do something kind for someone in need.
The Summit Interfaith Council is helping to make that a little easier this year with the Thanksgiving To Go campaign, a drive to supply bags full of everything you need to cook a delicious Thanksgiving dinner to less fortunate families in the area.
“We think this helps to bring people together,” said Terese Keil, a founding member of the Interfaith Council and head of the Thanksgiving To Go program. “They will have food they can cook at home, and they can gather with family and friends and have a nice Thanksgiving. … The people I work with at all the different agencies have told me how much their clients and guests appreciate receiving these. They really do fill a need, and that’s what keeps me going.”
Until four years ago, Keil said, St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church hosted an annual Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant in Breckenridge but were forced stop the event due to increasing demand. But with the need growing higher than ever, Keil said she knew the group would have to replace the program somehow.
“We had to stop doing the dinners, and I was trying to think of something that could replace that,” Keil said. “We still had a lot of people who needed food, and we still had a lot of people who wanted be a part of something during the holiday. So I started Thanksgiving To Go.”
For the campaign — operated in cooperation between the Interfaith Council and St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Breckenridge — the town of Breckenridge donates reusable bags to fill with food. The empty bags are distributed to places of worship around the county, where they can be picked up by parishioners or anybody else looking to take part. Community members who want to participate but can’t find a bag, or those interested in receiving a bag, should reach out to Keil directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants are given a shopping list of about $50 worth of nonperishable and traditional Thanksgiving foods to put in the bag. Each bag also will include a $25 gift card for City Market or Safeway that recipients can use on a turkey or whatever else they wish. Keil noted that purchasing a gift card isn’t required but is welcomed for those able to do so. The program is also subsidized by donations from St. John’s, Safeway and other donors around the county to help make sure each bag is complete.
Individuals and families can sign up to receive the bags at locations around the county, including places of worship, schools, the Summit Community Care Clinic, the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and more. Each bag feeds four to six people and is usually dropped off the Thursday or Friday before Thanksgiving.
Keil said about 400 bags are distributed each year, though there’s typically only about 200 participants helping to fill them. Each bag is personalized with a name tag of the recipient and comes with recipes for creating different dishes.
The deadline to turn in filled bags is Sunday, Nov. 17, to ensure there’s plenty of time to distribute them. And while the program is still finding its feet in its fourth year, Keil said it’s emerged as a worthy successor to the group’s Thanksgiving dinners.
“It wasn’t just low-income families, but we’d see young people in Breckenridge that worked on the mountain and could barely pay their rent, and people who were just there looking for a sense of community,” Keil said. “The dinners were a big help, and we wanted to take it a step further. We get a lot of feedback, and it makes me realize that this is really appreciated.”
In addition to the Thanksgiving To Go project, the Summit Interfaith Council is also hoping to spread a little extra holiday cheer this year, inviting all community members to take part in a special interfaith service for Thanksgiving on Sunday, Nov. 17.
The service will take place at 6 p.m. at the Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon, and will be followed by a feast of pie. There also will be crafts and activities for kids available throughout the service.
Diane Luellen, president of the Interfaith Council, said the service is open to people of all faiths, and clergy members from groups around the county are helping to plan the service, which the council hopes will become an annual event.
“This is just to bring all of Summit County together to give thanks in this harvest season,” Luellen said. “We’re all thankful for living in Summit County, and we want to come together to express that with one another.”
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