Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center hosted Friendsgiving at two of its Kansas City locations on Wednesday, Nov. 16, distributing food to hundreds of families.
The event has grown from last year with the addition of a second location at their Cabot Westside Campus.
“This year, we were trying to do more of a first come, first served basis, so that was our purpose of actually setting up this way this year, 2022,” said Rory Kirk, Community Advocate at Samuel U. Rodgers’ Euclid location.
Employees and volunteers at the Northeast location, 825 Euclid Ave., were greeted with a line around the block when they began passing out Thanksgiving meals at 4 p.m. Despite the cold, volunteers were in high spirits as they called out for turkey or ham and delivered the meals into waiting hands.
“They were donated,” Kirk said of the 200 turkeys and 200 hams. “We had a couple of different partners, United Healthcare was one, Healthy Blue was another.”
The events were still drive-through only for efficiency and to maintain distance.
“We try to be very conscious when it comes to COVID, and I think that is still a big key, even in 2022,” Kirk said.
A majority of the crew running the giveaway were employees, but Rodgers’ partners also sent volunteers.
It’s important to the health center’s staff and their partners to support not only healthcare, but a healthy lifestyle, especially around the holidays.
“One of the things that we don’t always understand is that one of the big stressors that is in our economy today is food,” Kirk said. “You know, food costs have risen expeditiously, and a lot of people – we may take for granted – can’t afford simply a good Thanksgiving dinner.”
Rodgers provided ham or turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, rolls and other Thanksgiving staples in two reusable grocery bags to each car until they ran out.
“The reason we do it is to make sure that people understand that we’re not just a partner in healthcare, but just a partner in just overall quality of life,” Kirk said.
Shawna Allen of United Healthcare, the primary sponsor for the Hy-Vee turkeys and hams, agrees.
“I think in the wake of COVID, it is very important for us to get back as United Healthcare,” Allen said. “Partnering with a federally qualified health center is just important, especially in this area… The response is just phenomenal, so I think you can see by the amount of people that came that the need is great. I wish we could have done more, but it lets me know that next year we need to beef it up.”
Allen said they’ll absolutely be back next year to assist however they can.
“It’s just a community effort,” Allen said of the variety of volunteers that showed up from United Healthcare. “We’re stuffing the bags with our information. We have our logo on the bags. They can reuse the grocery bags.”
The resources shared in the meal kits share information about coverage options that many may not know they qualify for.
“I just – I don’t want to get teary eyed – and keep talking about it,” Allen said. “But as I saw the cars, I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I think it was greater this year than it was last year. Who would have known? We’re a little bit out of COVID – it’s still, of course, it’s still going on – but the need is just so great. People are just struggling this year to be able to feed their families and it’s a sad reality… You can see that the costs are up. This is just going to be able to afford a family to feed – you know, where their Thanksgiving may have been bleak – this is some hope to give now.”
More information about Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center’s year-round services is available at samrodgers.org.