TUCSON GIVING

Donations sparse for turkey-day meals

Salvation Army, Luz Social Services need lots more food for annual feasts
2012-11-11T00:00:00Z Donations sparse for turkey-day mealsLoni Nannini Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The turkeys are winning.

The hungry are losing.

At least so far.

With Thanksgiving just 11 days away, two organizations that hope to provide almost 6,000 people with a nice holiday meal are incredibly low on donations.

Luz Social Services has none of the 200 turkeys it needs to feed an expected crowd of 2,000 at a feast in South Tucson.

The Salvation Army has just 17 turkeys and 25 frozen pies for the 4,000 meals it aims to prepare.

"Some say to a certain degree this is normal at this point because people haven't heard we need donations, but it is strange because everyone knows we do the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners," said Ashley Leuders, public relations director for the Salvation Army.

"We have already filled all the volunteer positions for Thanksgiving, so we know the community is aware of it, but we still haven't received any food donations."

The Salvation Army's Thanksgiving dinner has become increasingly important since the recession began in 2008, Leuders said. Last year more than 3,400 meals were served. The need is expected to increase among impoverished or displaced families this holiday season.

The U.S. Census Bureau 2011 American Community Survey recorded Tucson's estimated poverty level at 20.4 percent compared to a national average of 15.9 percent.

"According to these rankings, Tucson is the sixth-poorest large city, so these are people who are in dire need," Leuders said.

"In addition to sit-down dinners we do home-delivered meals for the disabled or homebound or those who can't cook, so it is definitely important for people in this community, especially with the economy where it is today. Many of these clients may be people who were able to feed their family last year and now they are in a different situation."

The trend of struggling and homeless families, including single mothers with children, has been on the rise in South Tucson as well, said Mary Ornelas, program director for Luz Social Services.

Luz provides outreach in health and human services, education and social and personal development for the Hispanic community.

"We see more moms who are looking for work or cleaning houses and making sacrifices to send their children to day-care so they can go out to work and bring money home because their husbands are not working," Ornelas said.

A Thanksgiving dinner at home is often beyond these families' means, said Maria Carrasco, who has volunteered with Thanksgiving in the Barrio for the past 10 years. Carrasco and Guillermina Torres, who has helped with the event for the past four years, are two of about 70 volunteers who facilitate the cooking effort.

"This is the only turkey many people will have because they can't afford to spend $100 on one meal. They need that money to buy food for the entire week. These are people who are having a hard time or are unemployed or barely make minimum wage.

"We also have lots of homeless people and veterans, and with the economy there are a lot of people with mental-health issues. There is such a shortage of services for them nowadays,"Carrasco said.

Carrasco and Torres said the annual Thanksgiving celebration, which also features a social-service information fair, helps build a healthier, more cohesive community by combating divisiveness and promoting empathy for fellow human beings.

"Everyone is welcome," Torres said. "It is a moment for families and friends to be together and to be thankful for everything we have, and to sit down and have a nice meal together."

How You Can Help

Thanksgiving in the Barrio

• When: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 20.

• Where: El Pueblo Neighborhood Center, 101 W. Irvington Road.

• Cost: Free.

• What's needed: Luz Social Services needs donations of 200 frozen turkeys, at least 100 frozen pumpkin and fruit pies, whipped topping, canned goods, grocery gift certificates and money to provide Thanksgiving meals for 2,000 homeless and hungry people in South Tucson. As of Wednesday the organization had no turkeys or other food. Donations can be dropped at Luz Social Services, 2797 N. Cerrada de Beto, which used to be 2797 N. Introspect Drive. The nonprofit can also pick up donations for the feast. For more information call 388-4574.

28th Annual Salvation Army Community Thanksgiving Dinner

• When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 22.

• Where: St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 1145 E. Fort Lowell Road.

• Cost: Free.

• What's needed: The Salvation Army needs nearly 500 frozen turkeys and 500 frozen, pre-baked pumpkin and fruit pies; seven cases of instant potatoes; 100 pounds of flour; 50 pounds of brown sugar; 140 dozen heat-and-serve dinner rolls; 30 gallons of milk; 30 dozen eggs; whipped cream or topping and other holiday food items. Donations can be dropped at The Salvation Army, 1001 N. Richey Blvd., and The Hospitality House, 1021 N. 11th Ave.

• Cash contributions can be mailed to 1001 N. Richey Blvd., Tucson, 85716. For more information go to www.TheSalvationArmyTucson.org or call 795-9671.

• Elderly or homebound Tucsonans who are in need of a free, home-delivered Thanksgiving meal can call 322-2009.

"We also have lots of homeless people and veterans, and with the economy there are a lot of people with mental-health issues. There is such a shortage of services for them nowadays."

Maria Carrasco, Thanksgiving in the Barrio volunteer

Contact Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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