There is some internal debate about how long Della Lamb has been providing Thanksgiving meals for needy families in the area: is it 25 years? Is it 23?
Whatever the precise number, thousands of families have benefited from the annual tradition. This year, the organization reported that roughly 1,300 people signed up for a free Thanksgiving meal with all of the fixings, which were passed out on the morning of Tuesday, November 21, at Della Lamb’s Mabee Multi-Purpose Center.
The package includes a Thanksgiving turkey (10-14 pounds), instant mashed potatoes, stuffing mix, turkey gravy, canned corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, chocolate cake mix with frosting, pie crust, apple pie filling, a dozen eggs and a pound of margarine. The packages also include turkey preparation recipes and a holiday greeting note from Della Lamb.
Nearly 200 volunteers in total – from area churches, a local engineering firm, Kansas City University, and more – contributed to the Herculean effort.
“We lugged all the stuff in Friday, and then Saturday we had about 70 people here. They’re the ones who loaded all the bags,” said Jonathan Hyde, Della Lamb’s Director of Development. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
Among the volunteers were a group of students from St. Mary’s University.
“It’s nice to be able to get out and help, and see how this organization gives back to the community,” said Lauren Baum, a St. Mary’s student.
Fellow St. Mary’s student Jane Truster said that she gained perspective by volunteering at the Operation Thanksgiving event.
“This is my first time doing service around Thanksgiving, so knowing what I get at Thanksgiving, and the feelings that I get sitting around with my family, it’s just really heartwarming to be able to give that to somebody else,” said Truster. “I’m glad I got my first experience doing this.”
Hyde noted that a significant portion of the volunteers have donated their time with Della Lamb on more than one occasion.
“Many of them come back, and they don’t come back because their boss makes them,” Hyde said. “They come back because they truly love it.”
According to Hyde, the clients are generally gracious and thankful for the benefits provided through Operation Thanksgiving. On Tuesday, recipients began lining up outside the doors as early as 5:00 a.m. for the event, which ran from from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
One recipient, a 12-year-old boy named Jordan who was waiting with his mother, said that he was most looking forward to eating the cake that comes with the care package. Another client, named Urban, said he’s been coming to Della Lamb for Operation Thanksgiving for about five years. Urban said that the idea of being able to have a Thanksgiving dinner is what keeps him coming back.
“Anybody that has been afraid to come out; I encourage them to come out, sign up, and take advantage of it for the kids,” Urban said. “Get something to eat.”
Moving forward, Della Lamb is already preparing for its next holiday event: Operation Santa Claus. The annual event, which provides Christmas presents for up to 1,500 low-income families in Kansas City, will be held this year from December 8 to December 13. The Operation Santa Claus packages typically include winter cloths for children and parents, small and large toys for boys and girls, a storybook and filled Santa stocking for each child, new household items for parents, a 10-14 pound frozen turkey and a selection of holiday groceries for the whole family.
Hyde said that toys are the items of greatest need for Operation Christmas.
“We’ve had clothes donated throughout the year – new clothing for kids. The thing that what we really need at Christmas time is toys,” Hyde said. “No matter what religion you are, Santa is a big deal.”
Della Lamb is still looking for volunteers to help with Operation Santa Claus store set-up from December 4 – December 7, and for the distribution line from December 8 – December 13. To volunteer, call (816) 842-8040 or email Della Lamb at email@example.com.