For many of us, Thanksgiving is celebrated with loved ones around the dinner table waiting to indulge in homemade turkey, stuffing and dinner rolls. But for others, purchasing these holiday ingredients seems impossible due to their socioeconomic status.
But since 2005, more low-income families in the community have been able to enjoy Thanksgiving dinners due to a nonprofit organization called the Long Beach Basket Brigade. It’s a 100-percent volunteer organization where community members unify to serve others.
What started with a group of five to six friends and neighbors wanting to give back to the community has evolved into an annual Thanksgiving basket brigade tradition in Long Beach. This year the event takes place on Saturday, Nov. 17 from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“About 52 baskets were delivered [that year],” said co-founder and event coordinator Kym Livesay. “In 2009, we became a nonprofit organization and since then, we have continued to grow by partnering with local Long Beach schools, as well as businesses and residents to collect money and food products.”
Months before the holiday, schools are assigned different ingredients ranging anywhere from brown sugar to mini marshmallows, etc. Aside from the school systems, the Long Beach Basket Brigade also partners with The Grocery Outlet.
“They order the rest of the food for us that doesn’t get donated,” she said. “And they also fundraise at their grocery store during the month of November to help reduce the cost.”
The organization also accepts monetary donations that go toward any products that are not donated. One hundred percent of all donations go into feeding families because there is no overhead cost.
Baskets contain everything a family needs for a homemade Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, fresh vegetables, cornbread, and sparkling cider.
“We get assistance from Food Finders, Long Beach Minister Alliance, and other service-oriented non-profits in Long Beach to help us identify families in need,” she said. “About 50 percent of baskets will go to low-income housing communities in North Long Beach, one-third go to Long Beach Minister Alliance to be distributed by their 30 affiliations, and the rest go to smaller organizations, as well as independent families who reached out to us.”
Each year before Thanksgiving, a group of hundreds of volunteers gather to assemble and deliver the food baskets with all the collected donations. Over 2,000 baskets are estimated to be delivered to families across the city.
“Some people know it’s coming so they are still grateful, but there are people who don’t know its coming because they were identified by an organization, neighbor or friend,” Livesay said. “They are surprised by it and very very overwhelmed.”
There is a core group of people, who have been volunteering for the past 13 years, but there are still new faces every time. To volunteer in this year’s basket brigade on Nov. 17 or to donate, please visit http://www.longbeachbasketbrigade.org for more information.