For many years, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK), has worked to distribute Thanksgiving meals to hundreds of households through its Thanksgiving at Home program, funded generously by the Geltzer Family Foundation. In addition to a large grocery distribution and TASK’s traditional Thanksgiving meal, TASK aimed to put 300 more Thanksgiving meals in the hands of households throughout Trenton.
“Every fall, we reach out to the community for help and every year they come through to help TASK provide Thanksgiving meals to our neighbors and patrons. Whether it’s donating items like turkey and juice, or volunteering to help compile baskets or working on distributing the meals, we have always relied on our donors and volunteers to help make this program happen,” said Jaime Parker, TASK’s Director of Programs & Services. “While we offer a Thanksgiving meal at TASK, we know that those who can celebrate at home don’t always have the means to do so. The Thanksgiving at Home program makes it possible.”
Parker’s sentiments are even more apt this year. With supply chain hiccups and the rising cost of food, the Farm Bureau estimates that the cost of a Thanksgiving meal has risen 5% in the past year. In fact, this year is expected to be the most expensive in the history of the holiday.
But, like most things these days, COVID-19 has made things even more complicated. Whereas TASK used to rely on dozens of volunteers, over multiple days, to help sort donations, build baskets and help hand them out to patrons, the pandemic has forced the nonprofit to limit volunteer help and change its distribution model in order to ensure everyone’s safety.
“Last year, we started making deliveries to people’s homes. Our goal was to let them know when we would arrive and be able to leave the delivery in a safe, contact-free way,” said Parker. “But it was really tough on us. Planning the routes, coordinating the drop offs and making the deliveries ourselves was really hard, to say the least.”
This year, TASK received a call from Amazon’s GM Administrative Assistant, Erin Hall. Amazon’s warehouse in Robbinsville, NJ, was looking for ways for the company to help. Amazon has worked with TASK for years, as a donor and hiring drive host as part of the Work Preparedness program. Hall was intrigued by TASK’s need for support with logistics and deliveries for the Thanksgiving at Home program.
“Amazon is a global company that sets local roots in the communities where our customers and employees live and work,” said Hall’s colleague, Brian Perez, General Manager at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Robbinsville, NJ. “We are very proud of our footprint in New Jersey and the great work our team has done for communities and organizations across the state. The latest of example of this is our partnership with TASK. It is an honor to support such a great organization by delivering Thanksgiving meals to families that need them.”
From there, a new partnership was born. On Thursday, November 18, Amazon employees from the Robbinsville warehouse arrived at TASK to help pack and make deliveries. Working alongside TASK staff, Amazon helped to load boxes into their trucks and successfully made more than 60 deliveries to community members in Trenton.
Upon receiving her Thanksgiving at Home basket, TASK patron Barbara was overjoyed. “I am so thankful to everyone,” she remarked as she accepted her delivery.
Said Joyce Campbell, TASK Executive Director, “Amazon has always been a valuable partner to TASK and their offer to help with deliveries during what is arguably their busiest season just shows their commitment to the Trenton area. We’re really happy to work with them to continue to maximize our impact, especially on a holiday that’s so focused on community and togetherness. The key to our success throughout COVID has been collaboration. On a day that’s about tradition, TASK is thrilled to continue the tradition of our Thanksgiving at Home baskets with the help of Amazon and so many generous donors and volunteers.”
TASK, which has been serving the Mercer County region since 1982, operates the only week-day soup kitchen in Trenton. In addition to providing hot and nutritious meals, TASK offers a multitude of resources to encourage self-sufficiency and improve quality of life including social services, its Adult Education and Work Preparedness program, enrichment opportunities in the creative arts, and the provision of basic necessities.