CAMDEN, NJ — The parking lot of the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Camden was flanked by bright orange cones Friday morning.
Incoming cars - who had signed up ahead of time - were directed toward the mountain of boxes where frozen turkeys, mixed vegetables, chicken salad and other goods awaited. Once they arrived, volunteers wearing face masks were ready to load up their car (guaranteeing a physical interaction-free experience) and wish them a “Happy Thanksgiving.”
By the end of the weekend, Ben Ovadia, resource development manager at the Kroc Center, said they expect to provide about 60,000 pounds of food to the community, helping to serve approximately 1,400 families - four times that of last year’s giveaway.
“We really wanted to bless lots and lots of families, as many as we could,” Ovadia told TAPinto Camden. “The partners made that possible. All these new partners we’ve had for Thanksgiving specifically that have been generous in the past and really worked to help put this together.”
Those partners included Butterball and the Food Bank of South Jersey (provided turkey and other fresh food), U.S. Cold Storage and HALOLIFE (provided face masks).
U.S. Cold Storage employee experience coordinator, Paige Salvador, said they’ve played a role in decreasing food waste and delivering fresh produce to other organizations in the Camden community like Joseph’s House, Guadalupe Family Services and Camden Lutheran Housing Inc. (CLHI).
When the Salvation Army reached out it was just a matter of figuring out a game plan.
“We have 43 warehouses across the country that are storing upwards of 50 to 60,000 pallets. Once the Salvation Army got the donation of food, we were able to keep it cold in our Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, building until today...We were happy to support this effort,” said U.S. Cold Storage Vice President of Logistics, Keith Mowery.
Captains Keith and Pam Maynor, who took over for Majors Terry and Susan Wood in Camden earlier this year, said Thanksgiving week is a ramping up of ongoing efforts to feed families as part of an in-house pantry that’s operated during the COVID-19 pandemic and other resources offered by the Salvation Army.
“[This Thanksgiving] I'm thankful that I have faith in my life. I'm thankful, even despite hard, really challenging circumstances, that it's an opportunity to really strengthen our resolve and persevere,” Captain Keith Maynor said. “I've had friends and I've had neighbors that have lost their lives…I’ve stayed thankful for what we have, great faith, that's the thing that pushes me.”
The captains said they continue to collect toys and prepare for a “Christmas Railroad" as part of #RescueChristmas.
What’s more, Ovadia said any excess food from this weekend’s event will be sent to the pantry and available for Kroc Center visitors in need.
Genaro Campos, 37, of Camden pulled up to Friday morning’s distribution with his 6-year-old nephew, Carlos, in the backseat.
“I actually just got a job for Amazon, so I’m happy about that," said Campos. "This year we’re keeping the dinner small, no extended family. I’m thankful for my family and that I’m healthy, that’s a blessing in itself.”