Taylor Greer and Nick Adams are part of an annual tradition of Mississippi University for Women preparing Thanksgiving meals for needy families in the Columbus Housing Authority. Greer is a senior at MUW and Adams is the president of MUW's Staff Council. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
Members of The W Leadership Program at Mississippi University for Women Thomas Kennedy, Kaylyn Bolton, Garima Shrestha and Taylor Greer pack baskets of food in Columbus Friday afternoon. The food will be delivered today to needy families.
Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
Jennifer Graham of Salvation Army and Oktibbeha County Youth Court Judge Paula Drungole-Ellis hold a turkey at Columbus Salvation Army Friday. Drungole-Ellis donated 34 turkeys to Salvation Army and Columbus Police Department's turkey drive.
Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
November 20, 2017 9:41:19 AM
This week, 40 families living in Columbus Housing Authority residences will receive a laundry basket filled to the brim with fruits, vegetables, cake mix, canned goods, baking ingredients and more.
It's a food drive students and faculty from Mississippi University for Women put together every year to give Thanksgiving meals to local families who need them the most. MUW faculty and student organizations assemble the baskets and members of Staff Council will deliver them straight to the families' homes today.
"It's fantastic," said Nick Adams, president of MUW's Staff Council, who has helped deliver food the last four years. "... We get hugs, we get kisses, people want you to come in and all that. You can tell you've really made a difference in that person's day and maybe their year."
This year is the 13th year MUW has coordinated with the Housing Authority to deliver the meals. In the past, the food has gone to large families, though this year it's primarily going to the elderly or disabled individuals, said Housing Authority Executive Director Debra Taylor. Many of them have medical expenses in addition to the typical utility bills and other expenses, and they often have a hard time making ends meet.
"Sometimes it's an option between, 'Do we buy food or do we buy medication?'" Taylor said.
So delivering whole nutritious meals just in time for Thanksgiving is a big help to many of these people, she said.
Culinary arts senior Taylor Greer, a member of The W Leadership Program at MUW, organized the drive this year.
"I emailed all the campus officers and registered student organization groups and asked them would they like to participate and sent them the list of things (to donate)," she said.
She asked for everything from canned fruit and fresh vegetables to sweet potatoes and vegetable oil for baking, she said. Snack foods are specifically missing -- "All of it is strictly to help you do Thanksgiving dinner," Greer said -- but each basket contains a gift card to a local grocery store to buy a turkey or whatever other food the individual wants.
Greer said the drive is a good way for MUW students to get involved in the wider Columbus community and serve people who need help.
"It gives people the opportunity to enjoy Thanksgiving," she said. "A lot of us who are on this campus are always well-off and are able to go home and enjoy a great big Thanksgiving meal, but some people don't have that luxury. So it's just a time for the W to come together... and give back to our community."
"All the members of Staff Council feel the same way," he said. "..We're always excited about doing this because it's just a great thing. It's a great thing for the community. It really shows how connected the campus is with the community and its members, trying to give back."
Other area food drives
The Salvation Army in Columbus and Columbus Police Department Benefits Committee are also planning a turkey drive to prepare and deliver Thanksgiving meals to senior citizens on Thursday. CPD Community Police Officer Rhonda Sanders is asking for volunteers to help assemble meals Thursday. To volunteer, call 662-327-5137 or 662-889-2504.
In Starkville, United Way of North Central Mississippi is also collecting food for needy families, particularly those in Oktibbeha, Winston, Webster and Choctaw counties.
For the last three weeks, volunteers, Mississippi State University students and church groups have been collecting non-perishable items like cereal and rice for a food drive, said United Way director Candy Crecink. But the big event coming up in Starkville is the Turkey Jam Friday at 7:30 p.m., an event of nine local musicians who will perform at Hobie's in downtown Starkville. Admission price: one bag of canned food.
"It's a wonderful way to relax after the Thanksgiving holiday," Crecink said.
While the food drive ran in the weeks leading up to Thursday, none of the food will be distributed in time to make Thanksgiving meals. Crecink's plan is to stock local food pantries and other charitable organizations long-term.
Her goal this year is to raise 10 tons of food. Since the organization has collected "multitudes" of food so far, she doesn't think it will be difficult. Last year, the organization raised eight tons, which lasted local food pantries until about March.
"We figure if we get 10 pounds we can at least get them through May or really June," she said.
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