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Church fills boxes of Thanksgiving foods for hungry families

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For more than 25 years, parishioners of St. Thomas à Becket Church in Reston have provided holiday meals to needy families. Parishioners collect traditional Thanksgiving foods and load them into boxes decorated by students in the parish religious education classes. 

Families living in Reston and Herndon receive the donated food through the Thanksgiving Food Drive, run by a local nonprofit called Cornerstones. Boxes containing packaged and canned foods are delivered to families whose holiday meal may be sparse or nonexistent. 

Over the years, the collection has expanded to involve the entire parish. Now, gift cards have replaced the holiday bird. 

“It became difficult to find a place to store a turkey,” said Betsy Coffey, director of sixth- through eighth-grade religious education, adding that those receiving the boxes might prefer other entrées. 

Through Cornerstones, the church is provided a shopping list of essential Thanksgiving foods, such as three cans of assorted vegetables (no green beans), one bottle of olive oil and two pounds of flour. 

For three weeks, grocery items piled up in the parish office. Nov. 16, more than 70 volunteers, including religious education teachers, adults and youths sorted through the food, checked expiration dates and tallied the items to dispense them equally. 

Cornerstones designated St. John Neumann Church in Reston as the collection site for the boxes, but parishioners of St. Thomas à Becket take their boxes one step further.

“Because we deliver so many boxes,” said Coffey, “we deliver right to the distribution point.”

The distribution point, a nearby apartment complex office, was the last stop before the boxes were picked up by the families Nov. 19.

Students decorated the boxes with festive images of turkeys, pilgrims and autumn leaves. Some students supplemented their artwork with letters to the recipients wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. 

Instead of just dumping the food in a box, Kristina Tascher, eighth-grade religious education teacher said, “We want these people to know we care.” 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016