Thankful Givers Make It A Happy Thanksgiving For All

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Hunger

Lower Cape Outreach Council COO Gennie Moran celebrates another banner year for the turkey drive.  ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANS The announcement over the PA system at Stop and Shop Saturday was about a decidedly different sale. Turkeys were available at a special price, and customers were urged to load the birds into their cars and drive them over to The Farm, on Rock Harbor Road.

That's where Sassy Richardson-Roche and her family and neighbors were waiting by a freezer truck to receive the donations to the Lower Cape Outreach Council's annual turkey drive.

“We collected 218,” Richardson-Roche said Monday. “It's a way to have a connection with your kids and your community, not just sending a check.” Her daughters Maeve and Violet designed a thank-you note to hand to donors, she said, and “my mom came with eight in the back of her car.”

Richardson-Roche said Nauset Marine brought over 20 turkeys and Nauset Fish and Lobster a dozen plus stuffing, cranberry sauce, and other sides for Thanksgiving baskets. She also highlighted the involvement of Shaw's and Friends markets, among other partners in the effort.

“The whole community is involved,” Gennie Moran, the Council's chief operating officer, said of the traditional turkey drive now in its seventh year. Fixings and gift cards are still being accepted; call 508-240-0694 for details.

The Council starts planning for the turkey distribution in July. The organization hears from councils on aging in the eight towns it covers from Harwich and Brewster to Provincetown and from other agencies who know of families and individuals in need. The process, Moran said, “is really personal and private.”

Reasons for participation vary. “It could be an illness,” said Moran, “the cost of health care, a sick relative, a sick partner. Things change instantly; it's an emergency situation.” Someone may be scrimping because they need a major car repair or new prescription glasses or replacement dentures.

“People live paycheck to paycheck or Social Security check to Social Security check,” Moran said. “It's very difficult, so it's great to see we have the ability to provide so many Thanksgiving baskets and to serve so many families.”

The Council helps the people of the Lower Cape year-round, not just during the holidays.

“We're very fortunate to be able to provide food, shelter, utilities, clothing, and medical aid – the basic necessities,” Moran said. In addition to food pantries in eight towns, the Council's Food to Encourage program sends a nurse and nutritionist to the United Methodist Church in Orleans and the 246 Kitchen in Wellfleet (at 246 Main St.) twice a month to take blood pressure and glucose levels and to provide clients with a bag of vegetables and recipes. The organization will be giving away three blenders at each location.

Moran highlighted the Council's partnership with other agencies, including the two-day emergency food packs put together by the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Council has a relatively new collaboration with Career Opportunities and Cape Cod Community College known as HopeWorks.

“People are looking for better jobs and better pay,” said jobs program coordinator Diane Casey Lee. A former executive director of the Cape Cod Council of Churches, she's excited about matching men and women with job coaches who will help them create or update resumes, sift through job listings, and mentor them through the application process. She's also reaching out to employers who have welcomed the new effort.

“They're looking for qualified employees who will stay with them year-round and dedicate themselves to the mission of the company,” Casey Lee said. In return, she encourages the companies to pay a fair wage and offer benefits. “If these two visions come together,” she said, “maybe we could slow down the exodus of young people from the Cape.”

Casey Lee is sure that the pool of talent hereabouts is deep. Noting that a human resources director with whom she spoke said the main thing employers are looking for is “professionalism,” Casey Lee said, “I haven't met anyone who's come into the office who with just a little confidence boosting couldn't be a viable professional employee.”

Several HopeWorks clients are “struggling with recovery,” Casey Lee said. “They're good people, young people, who got caught up in substance abuse. They're going to their meetings. Our job coaches will walk this new path with them. I've identified some companies that are willing to interview and hire people in recovery.”

Casey Lee said HopeWorks, which benefits from the insights of advisers such as Abigail Adams, business development manager for Steven M. Ellard, CPA/Atlantic Payroll, would welcome more job coaches to allow the program to expand.

Volunteers – more than 350 of them – are the lifeblood of the Lower Cape Outreach Council. Take it from Moran, the organization's COO, who started out as one herself.

“We are always looking for volunteers,” she said. “They are kind, they are generous, they are compassionate and giving.”

To learn more about the Lower Cape Outreach Council and its programs, including the annual Gifts of Hope appeal, go to lcoutreach.org or call 508-240-0694. For services or volunteer opportunities with HopeWorks, call Diane Casey Lee at 508-255-0271, ext. 7, or write to her at dlee@lcoutreach.org