Andrew Dys

November 17, 2012

Food pantries show the real meaning of Thanksgiving

Charities and food pantries that serve the neediest among us are struggling as Thanksgiving approaches.

The line stretched from the front door to in front of the next building. In line were men and women,, young and old, even a few couples who brought little kids. The kids held their parents’ hands.

The line was not for cheap shopping deals on this cold Friday. This was not evidence of the onslaught of bargains to be had on televisions, or the latest phone, or a video game that those kids with the bright eyes dreamed of in that line.

The line was for food.

The doors opened at 11 a.m. People started getting in line at 9:06 a.m.

Not food for Thanksgiving, a holiday meal, but food to live on. Food packed from the shelves of the Turning Point food pantry, rice and bread and vegetables and more, that is all that these 60 families who came through on Friday have to survive on.

In the line stood a proud man named Richard Young, 55 years old, who cuts grass for a living that normally pays for the food for himself and his family.

“It’s Thanksgiving,” said Young. “Ain’t no grass to cut at Thanksgiving.”

So Young said he is surely thankful for Turning Point.

“Thankful is the truth,” Young said. “Everybody in this line is thankful.”

Inside the pantry, John Williams, who runs the pantry looked at the shelves, and the number of people and the number in each home that each person was getting food for, and parceled the limited supplies out accordingly.

“We give all we can to as many as we can,” said Williams, who also runs a men’s shelter in Chester that requires food. “Donations save us. Donations save them. These people.”

Williams said three donors this week – the Boy Scouts, Food Lion, and King’s Funeral Home – gave enough to keep the doors open. Through the year to date, so many donors have been so generous in these tough economic times, Williams said.

Turning Point, like food pantries in York County, has had a brutal go of it in recent months. Food supplies are down. Donations are down. When the economy tanks, the generous who donate sometimes cannot give as much as before.

Williams came outside and told all the people in the line that he was proud, honored, to help serve them on this day a few days before Thanksgiving, when Americans say what they are thankful for.

John Williams is not a pastor.

But he is surely what is meant by the words of every religion that ask all to feed the hungry and give of ones self.

Those people in line, those in Chester who have no job and have no money and sometimes have no hope, looked into the eyes of John Williams.

Those people said, “Thank you,” almost as a chorus, in unison, for this place that has so little to spare that there is not even a sign over the door.

The poor need no sign. The poor know where to go if asking for food is the only way a kid will eat.

Williams said that he, and his volunteer board of directors, and his volunteer staff – the whole place is volunteers – appreciate all the pantry has received.

“The generosity of the people of Chester County – just like the people in York County – is wonderful and the only way that we can survive,” Williams said. “I want those people to have a great Thanksgiving. Because they show what it is to be thankful. I thank them, and I wish them a happy Thanksgiving, too.”

John Williams then walked in off the street to fill more bags from the rapidly depleting shelves. As he passed each person, he told them hello, and how good it was to see them.

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