The season of giving

Herbert Hoover once claimed that he would put “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” American society has evolved, and much has changed since the 1930’s and the Great Depression; but this philosophy still lingers in the minds of some. And while they may not be giving away any free cars, Roger Marino and the staff over at Mountaire Inc. have been working hard for years to see to it that, on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, everyone has a full pot.

This year, their annual Thanksgiving for Thousands program was bolstered by the participation of 6,200 members of American Legion Post 28 in Oak Orchard.

“Fourteen years ago we connected with the Dagsboro Church of God. They were getting too many people to serve Thanksgiving in their church. Rather than see them drop the program, we came up with the idea to box up enough food for a family of four or five,” explained Marino of the origins of the program.

The Thanksgiving for Thousands program relies heavily on community donations. In fact, that first attempt almost didn’t work. Donations were so eclectic that there was not enough to make complete meals.

“The next year, we asked for donations from the community and we [Dagsboro Church of God and Mountaire] supplemented those donations with our own moneys. We made everything uniform and had a nutritionist figure what it would take to make a box for a family,” Marino recalled.

“This year, after 13 years, I approached American Legion Post 28, which is the third largest post in the world,” he continued. “I asked if they’d like to help us enlarge the program, and they really jumped on the idea. The women’s auxiliary went out to the community to obtain funding and we got started. With the influence of the American Legion and the Dagsboro Church of God we can only see this growing.”

The American Legion location this year will feed 7,000 people. Add to that the 14,000 people who will be fed by the original operation in Selbyville, and 21,000 people will be taken care of in this year’s Thanksgiving for Thousands.

Those who receive boxes will enjoy a full meal for the holiday. Each box contains a pound of potatoes, a 1-pound. box of stuffing, chicken gravy, canned vegetables such as corn or green beans, applesauce, bread and fruit. There’s even a cake, with icing.

“It’s a tremendous situation,” said Marino. “We’re at a time where the economy is at its lowest, the need is greater than ever. The people we’re serving come from all walks of the community. There are people living in middle-class homes, for example, who need help because one member of the family lost their job, they lost overtime or something else went wrong. This year, we started a job fair. We thought, ‘We have people in need who are coming to pick up boxes of food. There are many of them who are in need of a job.”
“We started the job fair at the American Legion post, and also in Selbyville at the Mountaire warehouse,” he added. “It turned out to be a wonderful situation. We’ve gotten a lot of applications for jobs. People are still coming in to our offices in Selbyville and Millsboro.”

The Thanksgiving meals distributed this week won’t only go to feed local families.

“We’ll distribute from north of Dover all the way south of Salisbury,” explained Marino. “We’ll even go into the eastern shore of Virginia. I’d love to get more partners in the community in different locations, where we can do what we’ve done at the American Legion and in Selbyville, and just see this spread. It’s just wonderful to help these people.”