Florida Keys News
Sunday, November 18, 2012
New venue for Thanksgiving Day meals
Local nonprofits help each other help the needy

A United Street church that for years has provided free Thanksgiving dinners to people with few other choices for fellowship and food on the holiday will no longer be serving them.

But a local soup kitchen will continue the tradition, dishing out turkey and trimmings for the first time.

The Rev. Jonathan Carey, pastor of Glad Tidings Community Church, said his institution has provided an array of outreach programs, but that a reshaping of the focus began about two years ago. That's one of the reasons he cited for elimination of the Thanksgiving meal.

The St. Mary's Soup Kitchen, 2700 Flagler Ave., will serve Thanksgiving meals from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday.

The change, Carey said, is reflective of a new approach by social service providers, churches and nonprofits in Key West, geared toward eliminating duplication.

"For a number of years, the church has provided an array of outreach programs, and in 2010, we started the process of reshaping our outreach focus," Carey said. "We felt there were other organizations in the community that offered excellent services, so we shifted our commitment. We didn't want to come across as if we were competing with other organizations, but wished to assist them in completing them."

Glad Tidings used to provide meals daily for the needy -- and twice a day Tuesday and Thursday -- and also the Thanksgiving meal.

Last year, along with the Thanksgiving meal, Glad Tidings also gave needy families food boxes for the holidays in a well-received project. The church will distribute food boxes this year as well. Any family that needs one may sign up at the church office, 1209 United St. Neither church membership nor church activities are required.

"It includes a full turkey, all the stuffing and trimmings, enough to make a Thanksgiving meal for three to six people in their home," Carey said. "All of the ingredients, right down to the pie crust, sugar, rice -- anything that a family will need."

The interagency, interfaith cooperation is ongoing, holiday or not.

Carey routinely picks up bread, for example, at the Publix supermarkets and gives it to St. Mary's Soup Kitchen and other organizations.

Glad Tidings also has housing available for volunteers who come to help in the community, such as those who work with Habitat for Humanity.

"Other organizations are better at certain services than us," Carey said. "So we have started to network with the soup kitchen on Flagler, The Salvation Army, the Senior Center, MARC House, and the feeding program on Stock Island. We started to take some of the food items that we had and passed them on to those agencies that are having daily meals. So indirectly, we are part of this network and this system."

Still, even more is needed, said Habitat for Humanity Director Mark Moss.

Partnering with churches and other organizations to house Habitat's volunteers, Moss said, is an important aspect of interaction between various agencies and charities.

"We have room for a volunteer clearinghouse in this community," he said. "I have a brand name that is national; people know my name from all over so I can plug into college groups who want to plug in to Key West, who can volunteer to work while they are here."

At the same time, Moss said, local organizations such as Glad Tidings have a good eye for who in the community is needy, and what kind of needs must be met.

Local nonprofits have been putting together a mutual wish list, trying to set up a sort of database of needs.

"We can all add value to each other so we can reach the pockets of our community for resources to go to the people in our community that need our help," Carey said. "The spirit of networking is very much alive; we are trying to complete each other."

jdesantis@keysnews.com

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