With just a few weeks to go until Thanksgiving Day, people are already planning how they will give back to their communities, schools and local churches so that everyone can have a good time and a full belly this holiday season.
In as giving a place as Forsyth County is, there are countless different groups, charities and organizations that will be pulling out all the stops to help out those in need this Thanksgiving, so the Forsyth County News spoke with several organizations in the community to find out what they need and how you can help.
Here are a few of the groups that will be serving Forsyth County residents this Thanksgiving and how you can get involved.
The Place of Forsyth
According to Jacob Granados, director of purposeful engagement at The Place of Forsyth County, over the coming weeks their force of volunteers will distribute over 500 Thanksgiving "blessing boxes" that contain a complete Thanksgiving meal to families in the community for the upcoming holiday.
Granados said that they already have a long waiting list for the boxes, so they will need help from the community to make sure that everyone gets fed when the boxes are distributed to families in need on Nov. 24.
Granados said that as soon as they finish distributing food for Thanksgiving, they will turn around and start planning for Christmas, so any donations that people can give, at any point, are welcomed.
"We understand that this is the time where a lot of people are asking for different things," he said. "We get through Nov. 24 with food, but then we immediately turn around and we are having toy drives for the Holiday House ... we've already registered over 1,400 families for Holiday House."
What they need: Thanksgiving food like turkeys, hams, cans of corn, vegetables, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing and other traditional sides. Grocery store cards are also needed, along with toy donations, which will be used for the upcoming "Holiday House" that is hosted each year by The Place.
How to help: Donate food, volunteer hours and money. Anyone interested in making a donation can bring food to The Place of Forsyth County at 2550 The Place Circle in Cumming, he said. Anyone interested in volunteering for the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday, or making a monetary donation, can visit theplaceofforsyth.org for more information.
Meals by Grace
Suellen Daniels, executive director of Fill Ministries and Meals by Grace, said that with a few weeks left before Thanksgiving, they are gearing up to feed hundreds of families through their client pantry and home delivery.
“Last year, we were in a panic over how empty the pantry was. Well, it's not as bad this year, but we still have an ongoing need,” Daniels said. “It's up 20%. We've got 320 families coming every week to get food from the pantry.”
Daniels said that they will never turn away anyone who wants to volunteer, but they are already inundated with people who have signed on to help them through the end of February. She suggested that anyone feeling the spirit of giving should contact Meals by Grace and find out more about how they can help in the slow months, like spring and summer, when the charity desperately needs volunteers.
"If they want to come, we're not going to turn them away, but if crowds aren't their thing we have other times when we really need people," she said.
What they need: Canned fruit, vegetables and meats, pasta, pasta sauce, mac and cheese, peanut butter, jams and jellies, cereal, rice, canned beans, soup, meals-in-a-can, Vienna sausages and SPAM singles and protein bars. Daniels said that with the cold weather fast approaching their families that are homeless, in transition or without heat also need warm hats, socks, blankets, chemical hand warmers and electric heaters.
How to help: Donate food, warm clothing, jackets, blankets, Walmart gift cards, money. Donations can be brought to the Meals by Grace Client choice pantry, 432A Canton Road, Cumming, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays at Midway United Methodist Church. For other ways to give and to learn more about Meals by Grace visit mealsbygrace.org.
According to Sharon Gunter, founder of the Marcus and Sharon Gunter Foundation (MSG Foundation), on Nov. 25, the MSG Foundation will be doing it's annual "Boxes of Love" delivery, where they bring boxes of food for students in need to eat while they are out of school over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Gunter said that their charity is in good shape on canned foods, having collected a large stock of them during the recent Cumming Country Fair & Festival, but they still need boxed or jarred food items, like pasta, pasta sauce and gravy for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
"For the five days that they are out of school, we will provide each one of those students with breakfast, lunch, a healthy snack and a healthy fruit juice," she said.
What they need: Meals in a can, like ravioli and SpaghettiOs, tuna, macaroni and cheese, pasta and pasta sauce. Gunter said that they also need volunteers to help pack and deliver food.
How to help: Contact Sharon Gunter at 404-242-9770 or firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information on how to donate or volunteer.
Cumming First United Methodist
This year, Cumming First United Methodist will host its 19th annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner for families in the community. According to Linda Childs, the event’s coordinator, over the two-hour dinner period the church will feed over 1,000 people.
What they need: A number of different food items are needed by the church to pull off the annual feast, including turkeys, potatoes, disposable silverware and plates, pies and deserts. Volunteers to cook, serve and deliver meals during the event are also needed.
How to help: Donations can be brought to the church’s main office or sanctuary lobby at any time prior to Nov. 18. The church has created a SignUpGenius with a full list of needed items and volunteer openings, which can be found by visiting cfumcga.com/thanksgiving and clicking on “Volunteer Sign Ups Here!”