Article written by Urban Alliance staff.

When we think of Thanksgiving, many of us picture a day complete with a warm (and delicious) meal, a table surrounded by family or friends and some time to relax and enjoy a day to ponder the many things for which we are thankful.

But, for some, it may be a little more difficult to complete this picture of Thanksgiving togetherness. A significant number of residents in the Greater Hartford community struggle to secure basic needs, such as food, for themselves and their families and for some, the absence of family and friends makes it even more difficult to enjoy something some may take for granted – a Thanksgiving meal.

Youth Challenge of Connecticut, Citadel of Love, The First Cathedral and Valley Community Baptist Church are four Urban Alliance network participants who are working to provide the opportunity for whoever is in need to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

On Thursday, November 21, Youth Challenge of Connecticut’s Love Kitchen will host a free community Thanksgiving dinner for individuals who are facing homelessness or have a limited household income. On that same day, through a partnership with FoodShare, who’s mission is to engage the Greater Hartford community for the purpose of distributing food and increasing self-sufficiency, 58 turkeys will be distributed for free to individuals in need, who previously requested a donation through Youth Challenge’s food pantry. 

Foodshare recently announced that they had received 20,000 requests for turkeys from hungry families this holiday season. Each of these turkeys, which are donated by members of the greater Hartford community, provides a traditional Thanksgiving meal for one local family. 

Just up the road, Citadel of Love will be distributing turkeys beginning on November 23. Now in its fifth year, this outreach gives turkeys to families in need and works in collaboration with My Brother’s Keeper, a regular free community breakfast or lunch where the Gospel is shared through both actions and words. 

“The holidays always bring two emotions; happiness because we’re thankful, or sadness for what we don’t have. If we can reach out and share the same love that Christ shares, we can let the people in the community know that the mission of the church is to reach out and help the community,” said Darlene Holiday, Coordinator for My Brother’s Keeper. 

The First Cathedral in Bloomfield gave out over 200 turkeys last year, along with bags of canned goods and sides that will help to complete a Thanksgiving meal, and this year is no different. Starting on November 23, nearly 300 turkeys will be given to individuals and families in need in Bloomfield and Hartford. Volunteers also bring turkeys to those who are elderly and unable to drive. 

“We wholeheartedly believe in giving and being charitable,” said Pastor Michael Bailey of The First Cathedral, “Jesus was charitable. We can help give [others] food, but we can also share living ‘food’ – the Word of God!”

For the last 13 years, Valley Community Baptist Church has provided Thanksgiving baskets, which include fixings for a Thanksgiving meal, to hundreds of families who may otherwise not be able to afford a holiday meal.

“The need has always been obvious,” said Rev. Steve Johnson, Pastor of Care and Counseling at Valley Community Baptist Church, “even in Avon.”

More than half of the baskets are distributed by students, parents and teachers from Classical Magnet School to families in Hartford, and the other baskets are picked up by families in need who are a part of the Valley faith community.

Although it is a small step to address a more immediate need in the realm of basic needs provision, these efforts are helping to provide food where there is need along with countless opportunities to share God’s love through giving and serving.

The hope is that by working together to create opportunities for long-term solutions to basic needs provision and local food insecurity, we can support struggling individuals and families in practical ways that empower them to be self-sufficient, healthy and thriving.

To learn more about donating goods to or volunteering with local hunger-relief ministries that are a part of the Urban Alliance network, click here