ONEIDA — Thanksgiving this year will be unlike any other due to COVID, but community organizations like the Church on the Rock and the Oneida Rotary are still doing all they can to help those in need.
This year, the Church on the Rock and the Oneida Rotary will offer a turkey giveaway, complete with all the fixings, on Saturday, Nov. 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Applicants were asked to register with Church on the Rock by calling 315-280-4044 or by visiting the Church on the Rock Food Pantry, 164 Madison St., on Wednesdays, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
In a typical year, the Oneida Rotary would be holding its annual Thanksgiving Luncheon at the Kallet Civic Center. Last year, 400 people attended the 25th annual event, but officials said an event this year was impractical in the face of the pandemic.
“We determined we couldn’t hold [the Luncheon] this year a couple of months ago,” Oneida Rotary President Lillian White said. “In lieu of it, we got creative. Folks still needed help and we asked how to do this in the COVID environment.”
White said the Oneida Rotary reached out to local community organizations who did a Thanksgiving event as well and connected with Church on the Rock, who distribute turkeys to families in need every year.
“Church on the Rock distributed around 200 turkeys last year,” White said. “And they told us they believe there will be more families than ever this year who need help.”
Already, the Church on the Rock Outreach Coordinator Stuart Houck said they have close to 200 people in the community registered.
Oneida Rotary worked with Church on the Rock to offer not just a turkey, but the trimmings to go with it: potatoes, stuffing, rolls, cranberries, and green beans. It even comes with a roasting pan.
Distribution will be done via drive thru, letting Church on the Rock and Oneida Rotary volunteers assist families safely and with social distancing. Houck said Melissa King of Karing Kitchen will be driving out to distribute to 35 families who can’t make it to the drive thru.
Houck said he had planned to volunteer for the Oneida Rotary Thanksgiving Luncheon this year and was sad to see it canceled due to COVID, along with many other events in the community.
“The need in the community is still there despite COVID,” Houck said. “It’s even greater now. Now is the time that everyone might say that it’s impossible to [help the community with COVID present], but it’s essential to find a way to give the people what they need. With all the fear of [COVID], hope is so essential. Hope is something to hold onto, to know there is light at the end of the tunnel and there are people who care.”
Houck said he’s heard all the stories about people not being able to have a Thanksgiving for one reason or another and received help from the community.
“That’s when the walls come down,” Houck said. “When they find out someone cares for them. And that’s when the healing can start.”