Giving thanks by giving back: Local services extend season of appreciation

Shelves are stocked, packages are sorted, and baskets are collected. As many get ready for a restful break, local volunteer organizations diligently coordinate arrangements for the subsequent weeks. 

To most college students, Thanksgiving is a time of relaxation from daily stresses. For other Kirksville inhabitants, however, the holiday season can bring more concern than comfort. Kirksville service organizations are especially aware of food insecurity and have steadily adjusted their offerings to prepare for the higher demand.  

“I think [the holidays] greatly increase donations,” Sheila Swafford, Pantry for Adair County manager, said. “There are more organizations and groups that look for a project to do, so they do physical collections and make those donations into food pantries.” 

Because school is often the main source of nourishment for students, Swafford said this need is notable for children specifically. Families are frequent returners for this reason, but the pantry reaches out to singles and veterans as well.  Providing a sustainable Thanksgiving is a priority for all.  

“We serve over 400 households a month, which is about 1,080 people in those 400 households,” Swafford disclosed. “We will be giving away turkeys — we have about 120 of those. We will be selecting randomly from our client list to donate those turkeys back to the pantries.”

Thrift stores might be popular shopping venues among some, but they also serve as necessary resources for other members of the community. Tina Abernathy, manager of The Crossing Thrift Store, cites food, clothes and blankets as prime requests during this time of the year. Despite these timely needs, Abernathy said that the store’s mission is no different.

“We have a small food pantry and we do try and help out people who are without anything, especially in the cold weather,” Abernathy explained. “We’re always willing to help with that. But we don’t really change our format, because we are giving all year long. We do price toys a little bit cheaper during the holidays, though.” 

Because Thanksgiving closely precedes Christmas and other December holidays, Abernathy said preparations for more winter based needs, such as gifts and warm items, becomes crucial at this time as well.

With greater cold weather inflow, those working at service sites recognize the importance of seasonal cheer for volunteer motivations. As shortages peak, store administrators are cognizant of their heightened opportunity to provide for the community. 

“We usually get more [contributions around Thanksgiving],” Abernathy added. “We’re staying very full all the time, but people are very generous at this time of year.”

Although it is clear that the surrounding community is in need of support, a perhaps invisible scarcity lies on campus itself. Truman State University provides for Kirksville’s food-insecure families and students via the SERVE center, an exigency that is further emphasized approaching breaks like these. 

SERVE staff member Mollie Lamzik noted that Truman is a generous campus, both because of service organizations and student sentiments. That philanthropy becomes further highlighted around this part of the semester. 

The center is hosting its annual Big Week of Giving Nov. 18-23, planning to complete a food drive and collect turkey baskets for Kirksville’s food insecure citizens. Coordinators hope to generate excitement and knowledge regarding their contributions. 

“I feel like a lot of people aren’t really aware all the time of what we do, which is why our different events throughout the year are very important for the SERVE center,” Lamzik said. “Those things kind of make people more aware that they have this resource available to them.” 

While the season might bring goodwill and assistance to these organizations, they continue to seek volunteers year-round. Managers concede that volunteer work is often at the core of what keeps nonprofits alive.

“Volunteers come in and they help sort clothes, they help hang clothes, they help reorganize and clean — they just do so much,” Abernathy said. “We have a lot of really good volunteers, and we get a lot of good students that come in and help. We have Truman students that get class credit for volunteer hours. Then we have people that just come in and volunteer. They don’t get anything out of it except for the time they spend here and how they get to communicate with those in need.” 

The Pantry for Adair County is available for donation pickup or drop off Tuesday 4-6 p.m. as well as Wednesday and Friday 1-3 p.m. The Crossing Thrift Store is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and stocks clothing, food, books, and similar items. The Truman SERVE center is open during normal business hours and accepts collections daily.