It’s the week of Thanksgiving. Freezer trucks are filled with frozen turkeys. Three thousand boxes are stacked, all filled with food items. After months of counting, sorting and planning, Denver Rescue Mission staff and volunteers are ready to share the harvest by distributing the most eagerly awaited meal of the year.
The Mission has been distributing food boxes for Thanksgiving since the late 1990s. It all started with an influx of turkeys donated by the community through the Mission’s annual, renowned Turkey Drive.*
“I just remember in 1997 around the fall, we started receiving turkeys,” said Steve Walkup, spiritual director for the Mission. “You can only use so many turkeys to cook meals, so we wanted to redistribute them. When we had all these turkeys that we started distributing, we said, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if people could have an entire meal?’”
As the number of donated turkeys increased each year, we continued to hand out more food boxes. Fast-forward about 10 years to what is now known as the Thanksgiving Banquet-in-a-Box (TBIB) program and since then, come rain, shine or blizzard, the Mission has never missed a year.
As part of TBIB, we distribute 3,000 Thanksgiving meal boxes to families and individuals in need. Cars start lining up at 7:30 a.m. at Empower Field at Mile High with families who are eager and excited to receive their boxes and turkey. “There are a lot of people—hardworking people out there—who really could use a box so their families can have a nice meal during Thanksgiving.” Steve said.
Juanita and her family
Juanita, a Denver local, received a box for the first time in 2019. She was able to make a meal for her boyfriend and two daughters, six and 11, on Thanksgiving Day.
“We were grateful because we got to actually have a meal for Thanksgiving. [It was] just a rough time. We probably weren’t going to buy a turkey or anything or have the money to do it, so we were thankful to get help with that. It’s important to us because I want to show my kids that just because sometimes people don’t have the money, it’s still a holiday and you can still get help from somewhere and be grateful for what you have.”
It’s no secret that this year has been hard for our country, city and community. But as we reflect on the many years that God provided enough turkeys through generous donors like you, it’s proven that when we come together, we can support the most vulnerable among us. The Mission is grateful to be able to once again host our annual TBIB giveaway in partnership with the Denver
Broncos and Venture Sports.
“What the Mission tries to do is give everybody who wants to love on other people an opportunity
to show kindness in the name of Jesus,” Steve said. “Then, it becomes contagious. Love is contagious. Generosity is contagious. What we want to do is have that spirit of giving go out across the city of Denver. We sure need that this year.”
*Denver Rescue Mission’s Annual Turkey Drive brings the community together to collect turkeys (including donations of cash and frozen turkeys) for families and individuals in need.
All photos were taken at the TBIB event on November 27, 2019.
In Every Thing Give Thanks
At our Thanksgiving banquets last year, we served 1,105 meals to individuals and
families experiencing homelessness at our facilities in Denver and Fort Collins. One
of our guests shared what he was thankful for:
“I am not supposed to be here. Every doctor will tell you there is no way I should be alive. There is one thing I believe in, and that is God. I never thought I would ever need this place. But you are thankful when it is there for you. Thanksgiving isn’t just about being thankful for the food or the people. It’s [being] thankful for being alive—to be awake and have a cup of coffee. To some people that’s routine. Tomorrow isn’t promised. You aren’t guaranteed to wake up tomorrow. I tell people that is a blessing. That is God waking you up.”
John, Guest at Lawrence Street Community Center Thanksgiving Banquet
While this year’s Thanksgiving gatherings will look differently with social distancing requirements, we are still planning to make a traditional meal for our guests.