Coronavirus Thanksgiving: ‘This year is a lot different’

Thanksgiving comes this week months into a pandemic that has left a vast number of Ohioans struggling to hold — or afford — a traditional holiday meal.

“This year is a lot different because so many families are in need,” said Nicole Adkins, executive director of With God’s Grace Mobile Food Pantry. “A lot of families just don’t know where the next meal is coming from and they just don’t know how they’re going to be able to be put food on the table.”

The number of Ohioans living in food insecure households has climbed since the pandemic, according to projections made by the national organization Feeding America. Ohio ranks 10th nationally with 18.1% of the population - or more than 2 million people - estimated to be food insecure. The percentage is up from 13.9% in 2018.

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Organizations like With God’s Grace are helping meet the need locally. The organization, which has operations in northern Montgomery County and in Springfield, gave out about 1,200 free turkeys last week.

Bob Hess, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, stood on a running board of his pickup last week trying to gauge his wait for a free turkey in the packed parking lot of a vacated Kroger store in Harrison Twp.

Hess, who lives in Dayton and said his income is his social security check, said Thanksgiving this year will be spent with only immediate family members.

“No cousins, no aunts or uncles like we usually have,” he said. “I guess that ain’t going to happen this year.”

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

Randall Comstock of Dayton and his wife say they are hosting a socially-distanced gathering of four units of his extended family.

“We have a pretty big house, so we have designated each room of the house will have an independent family and that will kind of cut down on the coronavirus,” he said. “Each family will have a room.”

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Maureen Slaughter of Dayton said her Thanksgiving will still be a day of thanks but spent more “isolated.”

“I’m still alive and grateful to be with the people that I love. I can’t complain,” she said. “I’m going to be with my son, my daughter-in-law and my grandson. That’s enough.”

Dan Acuff, a With God’s Grace volunteer from Kettering, surveyed 600-700 vehicles crammed in lines moving through the lot last week as he loaded frozen turkeys into car trunks.

“In some ways COVID has brought people together because we had to help each other,” he said. “You see people who are out of work and aren’t getting anything at all. That’s why we do what we do.”

Acuff said a friend’s father died from the virus two weeks ago and other friends are hospitalized.

“Trying to see them right now is difficult because they’re limiting visitors,” he said. “So yeah, it’s affected a lot of our lives.”

The turkeys for the organization’s fifth Thanksgiving giveaway were provided by the Dayton Foodbank and a private donor, Adkins said. A long line of vehicles backed up a lane of Needmore Road waiting to get into the lot last Thursday afternoon.

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Debbie Tompkins of Kettering drove friend Gary Miller of Dayton to get turkeys.

One of Miller’s granddaughters has the virus and quarantined along with Miller’s daughter. That meant scrapping their typical plan. The extended family of 16 will try to meet via Zoom, he said.

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

Tompkins said talking to each other over computers is little substitute for sharing a Thanksgiving meal in person, but it is prudent.

“It’s just not the same,” she said. “It’s disappointing but you have to be safe.”

Of Dayton Daily News readers who responded to a survey last week, 57 percent indicated they will spend Thanksgiving with people who live with them while 15% planned to spend the holiday with more than 10 people.

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Taiwan Crawford of Xenia said she is caretaker for her mother, who has dementia and may not live another year.

“This is a blessing for us right now to have Thanksgiving while she’s still here living,” Crawford said. “So we’re trying to enjoy everything that we can, with all the memories and all the gatherings.”

But after two unsuccessful back surgeries, Crawford finds herself on disability and has difficulty making ends meet, including buying food, she said.

“There’s not enough,” she said. “The pantries can’t keep up and the stores, you can’t afford it.”

Crawford said her mother taught her how to sew, how to cook, how do be diplomatic, how to strive for an education and to resolve conflicts.

Her mother, Louise Crawford, also taught humbleness, Crawford said - a condition said she finds herself in now.

“You become humbled and you become noble,” she said. “You count your blessings.”

Credit: Submitted

Credit: Submitted

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