Jeannie Davis has stories.
There was the couple who had lost their home due to medical bills and were living with friends through the holiday season. There was another couple whose house caught on fire shortly before Thanksgiving, forcing them to rebuild, starting with the kitchen. There was a family with three teenage sons who sat down together for the first time in a long while over a turkey dinner after months of struggling with one parent’s mental health issues and the ensuing medical bills.
All were recipients of Gift of Gobble, a holiday program that feeds 100 families every Thanksgiving with complete feasts they can prepare and enjoy in the privacy of their own homes. Davis is the administrator at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, one of nine churches that receive meals for members of their congregations each year. She believes the in-home aspect of the program is vital.
“The preparation of the meal is so important,” she says. “We look back at our Thanksgivings in our own homes and how the holiday brings families together. It’s a time of forgiveness and warmth. Being able to prepare the meal at home is an invaluable part of Gift of Gobble.”
The program is run through Bounty for Families (BFF), a nonprofit organization that also oversees the Yelm Farmers Market and a new community gardens project. Now in its 10th year, Gift of Gobble was always intended to be a way for families and individuals who may be struggling financially during the holidays to have an experience of abundance.
Original founder Andrea Levanti came up with the idea of including diverse segments of the community, which is why meals are divided among 25 Joint Base Lewis McChord families, 33 families from nine local churches, six families from Rainier Community Schools and individual nominations submitted through the BFF website or forms at the Yelm Food Co-op.
“Anyone can nominate a family,” says BFF Board Secretary and Program Manager Heidi Smith. “It’s up to the nominator whether they choose to remain anonymous or let the family know who nominated them. We simply ask for a brief description of the nominee’s situation.”
Rosie Lybecker is the Registrar at Rainier High School, and she gets the welcome task of distributing meals to families the school nominates.
“I’ve had people break down in tears,” she said. “The impact for me is that I get to be the bearer of these great groceries. People are really excited to receive these meals.”
Within Rainer Schools, Lybecker and her colleagues pay attention not only to families that are already on their radar as needing assistance but to those who may have recently had a change in circumstances.
“We always try to add in people where maybe there’s been a split in the household and all of a sudden there’s one parent with four kids and no longer the double income,” she explains. “You can tell that the kids are struggling.”
Every Gift of Gobble meal feeds at least six people and includes a frozen organic turkey, fresh potatoes, carrots and onions, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce, canned green beans, corn, butter, gravy mix, pie filling, pie shells and pudding mix. Lybecker believes the nature of the meals is empowering to those who receive them.
“They get to be creative,” she says. “They can really do something with what they have and make a great feast.”
Gift of Gobble is entirely supported through community donations from both local businesses and individuals.
“People seem to really get behind this program,” says Smith. “We have one couple that funds meals for between 8 and 19 families every year and the business community is hugely generous, even when some businesses are struggling a bit themselves.”
Typically almost $2,000 comes in through the Yelm Food Co-op, where customers contribute anywhere from $5 to $300 at a time.
On Thursday, Nov. 21, one of Yelm’s newest and most popular businesses, the 507 Taproom and Filling Station will host a fundraiser for the program with $1 of every pint purchased getting divided between Gift of Gobble and another holiday program based in Mckenna. It takes $6,000 in total to feed a hundred families, at $60.00 each.
“We’re close,” says Smith. “We’re about $1,100 away from our target, so we really appreciate Bill and Sarah stepping up and doing this for us.”