Community comes together during season of thanks
Thanksgiving takes on a more literal meaning when you witness a financially struggling mother give a tender embrace to the volunteer who has just loaded a holiday dinner in the back of her car, her daughter standing beside her, nodding wistfully.
“I just had to hug him. I am so happy. We wouldn’t have Thanksgiving dinner without this,” said the mother, who lives with her daughter in the Gardnerville Ranchos.
The volunteer was Henry Westcott, a member of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, a club of 50 local volunteers who, since their inception in 1998, have helped the Carson Valley Community Food Closet with their Thanksgiving food drive each year.
“I have a lot of fun helping people,” Westcott said. “All kinds of people come in here and are so surprised and happy to have a meal.”
Westcott was one of more than a dozen volunteers who worked Tuesday morning at the food closet on Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years,” said Diane Malone, one of the food drive’s original coordinators.
Malone said the nearly 300 families receiving Thanksgiving dinner this year qualified for the service through Douglas County Social Services.
“I love it. I love helping people in the Valley that aren’t as blessed as some of us are,” she said. “I’ve had families break down and cry. Years ago, I had a family that had to use the service for a period of time, and who later, when things were better, came back to donate.”
Volunteer Nancy Hollenbach said some of the largest food donations came from the honor society and the Block D Club at Douglas High School. Block D donated 1,857 pounds of food. She said local Boy Scouts also had a successful drive, and that there were too many other organizations and businesses to name that had donated.
“I would like to thank them all,” she said.
In the rear of the facility, volunteer Dee Leonard explained the assembly line she and other volunteers had fashioned.
“Depending on the number of family members, we start filling the box with food,” she said.
Food items included potatoes, onions, vegetables, stuffing, pumpkin pie, egg nog and turkey of course.
“Because of financial situations there have been more people on the list this year than past years, and they’re all very appreciative,” said Mounted Posse volunteer Sandy Jonkey. “But we also wanted to help out the ladies who work here and do this all year long.”
Outside, Westcott and others were helping families load boxes stuffed with food into their cars.
“We’re going to have a good Thanksgiving now,” said a Dresslerville mother of four.
Another Gardnerville woman was helping her elderly mother carry the box.
“This is a big help for seniors,” said the daughter. “And they always make you feel really comfortable. They don’t make you feel like you are getting a handout. They don’t make you feel ashamed.”
The mother said she would bring back what she couldn’t eat, and that she was extremely grateful for the community’s donations.
“God bless them,” she said.