Twenty-five years ago, United Way of Central Maryland’s Harvest of Plenty Program distributed turkey dinners with all the fixings to 600 area families who otherwise would have gone without. More than a meal, the dinners represent good times spent with family and friends and create lasting memories. Today, the program services more than 4,000 families and individuals.
Donations to the Harvest of Plenty Program enable United Way to provide the traditional holiday meals, which include a 12-pound turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese and other staple items, to thousands of our neighbors in need. This year, the goal is to provide more than 4,000 Thanksgiving meals to those who sign up by calling the 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline. The Helpline operates 24/7 every day of the year and provides free seasonal services such as Harvest of Plenty meals and tax preparation help as well as a variety of health and human services such as food, shelter and utility bill assistance.
The 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline staff often hear back from the individuals and families that received meals through the program. And many times, the recipients report that the meals are more than just a box of food, but an answer to a need that happens to come at just the right time.
Katie* was pregnant when she called 2-1-1 in need of a Thanksgiving meal for her family. On the day she was scheduled to pick up her Harvest of Plenty box at a local church, she began having contractions. Katie didn’t know how long she would have before she had to go to the hospital, so she immediately went to the church to get the food. She worked until the early hours of the morning, preparing the meal so that her family could just cook it according to her instructions. Katie finally went to the hospital at 3:00 a.m. and delivered her son several hours later. “Although I wasn’t there to actually enjoy the meal, my family was taken care of and they even saved me some for when I came home.”
Curt, an older gentleman, picked up a turkey to cook for his 92-year-old mother. “This is her first year without her husband and she wasn’t planning on doing anything, so I surprised her with a meal!”
“Our house burned down a few weeks ago,” said Layla, a mother of four. “I was starting to feel like a burden on the family that took us in, and it meant a lot that I could contribute to the household by sharing our Harvest of Plenty meal with them.”