- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic may be crimping some people’s holiday plans, but it’s not stopping nonprofits and businesses from giving back to the community.

On Tuesday, Safeway and Events DC kicked off the 21st annual Feast of Sharing, offering 5,000 Thanksgiving meal boxes and 5,000 gift boxes for delivery to 20 D.C.-area nonprofits to distribute to people in need.

This year’s event is not being conducted in-person at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. At the previous events, 5,000 attendees would sit down for a full Thanksgiving meal and enjoy live entertainment with the help of 1,000 volunteers.

“This year, we realized with COVID we weren’t going to be able to go forward with that,” Safeway spokeswoman Beth Goldberg said. “So we reimagined the event and wanted to still convey our sharing and caring values and traditions that we’ve always had with the event but figure out a new way to do it this year that would be safe and healthy and still show our neighbors how much we care about them.”

The Feast of Sharing Thanksgiving meal boxes will provide recipients with a holiday meal, including a turkey sandwich with condiments (including cranberry relish), a side potato salad, an oatmeal cranberry cookie, an apple, a juice box, bottled water and utensils.

In addition, the 5,000 Feast of Sharing gift bags include winter clothing accessories and personal protective items to keep community members warm and safe. Each gift bag contains a winter hat and scarf, a pair of gloves and socks, a face mask and a small bottle of hand sanitizer.

“While we have enjoyed hosting this beloved D.C. holiday tradition for the past 20 years, the health and safety of our guests, staff and service partners during the COVID-19 public health emergency is of the utmost importance,” said Chinyere Hubbard, spokeswoman for Events DC. “We hope that the recipients of the gift bags and meal boxes feel warm, safe and cared about during these unusual times.”

The list of local nonprofits distributing the meal boxes and gift bags will be released later. Safeway delivered meals and gift bags to the nonprofits Tuesday for the organizations to distribute.

The Central Union Mission was one of the local nonprofits to receive more than 500 meal boxes and gift bags Tuesday. The Mission plans to distribute the meals and gift bags Wednesday and Thursday at its homeless shelter on Massachusetts Avenue and at its family ministry center on Bladensburg Road NE.

“We serve the homeless, we serve the poor 24/7/365,” said Joseph Mettimano, president of Central Union Mission. “So we are in the practice of helping the needy year round.

“And it’s especially important this time of the year because the holidays tend to either uplift or depress folks depending on their circumstances. And the folks we are serving already have a difficult time in life,” he said. “So we work very hard to try and make sure they get to participate in the festivities of the season whether it’s Thanksgiving or whether it’s Christmas.

“We try to make sure people are well fed, that they feel loved, appreciated, and that we are providing them with not only material things and gifts and that kind of stuff but also helping to lift their spirits as well,” Mr. Mettimano said.

The Christian-based nonprofit is also starting to accept donations for Operation Christmas Miracle so that they can give toys to low-income families.

Last weekend, community service organization Project GiveBack distributed Thanksgiving gift baskets to families in need.

D.C. Central Kitchen also delivers 5,000 special meals to shelters, rehab clinics and transitional homes in the area each year on Thanksgiving, offering a full turkey dinner and traditional sides.

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