The dozen-plus volunteers for Faith Food Fridays may not have been doing somersaults or tap dancing. But there is something to be said for providing free turkeys for Thanksgiving.
“It definitely feels better and definitely brings out a crowd of people who are in the spirit of giving,” said Steve Bearce, an eight-year volunteer joining others in assisting the distribution late Friday morning at 826 Solano Ave.
Few — besides, perhaps the estimated 500 recipients — could have have been more pleased than Mary Ann Buggs, coordinating the program with her husband, Benjamin Buggs.
“I always reserve my happiness for when it’s going to be OK. I’m very happy,” said Mary Ann, tickled about the last-minute donation of 150 turkeys from a FFF vendor to complement the already procured 350 turkeys.
“He said he’ll bring over some turkeys and they came back with a truckload … so we’re good,” said Buggs, beaming Friday.
“This is the holiday that we do of the two we do that centers around food. It’s all about family, about tradition, about celebrating,” she said. “It’s about togetherness even if you’re only two people like we are.”
It doesn’t work without the volunteers, Buggs emphasized.
“They come here out of the goodness of their heart and they understand the mission of Faith Food Fridays. Everyone here understands what they’re doing,” she said.
Bearce was actually in need himself when he drove by Faith Food Fridays eight years ago and noticed a crowd waiting for food.
“I came here to get a box of food … volunteered .. and have been here since,” he said, with his wife, Shari, unloading turkeys.
With COVID regulations and all, “this Thanksgiving will be smaller,” Steve Bearce said. “But we’re still joyful, still appreciative.”
A turkey is symbolic of giving and sharing, Bearce noted.
Getting that prized bird “is very special,” said Tanya Shuster, being escorted by a volunteer to her car.
Thanksgiving “is just going to be me, my mom and my fiancé,” Shuster added. “It’s very special to have food and share together.”
And a Thanksgiving without a turkey?
“I guess it would be Halloween … scary,” Bearce said smiling.
“It’s not Thanksgiving. It’s not,” said Shuster. “Turkey’s always the No. 1 showcase.”
An American Canyon resident, “Dino,” waited patiently in line for his turn at snagging the food box.
“I’m grateful,” he said, and though Thanksgiving “used to mean family .. now it’s me.”
Dino said he visits Faith Food Friday once, sometimes twice a week.
“It means a lot,” said Dino, a diabetic. “These people are great. God bless ’em. People can come get food. I do and I utilize every bit of it or pass it to my neighbors.”
Stan Byas, who runs Brothers of International Faith food pantry in Richmond, visited Friday to pick up some tips from long-time friend Benjamin Buggs.
“I learn whatever I can. You can learn something new every day,” said Byas, clean since 2007 after 40 years of addiction … some of those years living on the streets.
Byas said those who aren’t in a desperate situation can always help by donating, volunteering, or “just being grateful.”
“This could be me again. I’m just a paycheck away,” Byas said. “This isn’t about me. It’s about those who are struggling. Even working people are struggling and need help.”
Byas said ignoring the problem of hunger isn’t a solution.
“It was once said that coming together is the beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success,” Byas said.