Bringing Thanksgiving to Those in Need

November 21, 2016

Need never takes a break, even during the holidays — a season that celebrates abundance and can make the pinch of monetary struggles felt even more keenly.

For more than a decade, Bucknell's Office of Civic Engagement has been working to alleviate that need with its Turkey & Trimmings Holiday Basket program, which helps hundreds of financially challenged Union County residents each year by providing the supplies for a Thanksgiving meal. Through the program, Bucknell students, faculty and staff help struggling families celebrate one of the most cherished American holidays.

"Every year, need comes — it doesn't end," said Lynn Pierson, assistant director of community service at Bucknell. "We want as many folks as possible to have food on Thanksgiving."

The baskets typically consist of a gift card for a turkey and supplies for all the trimmings of a Thanksgiving dinner: stuffing mix, gravy, canned vegetables, potatoes, yams and more. Many baskets also include dessert ingredients or hot chocolate mix and often there are extra items like hats and gloves, towels and coloring books and crayons. Sometimes, according to Pierson, even the basket itself is a gift.

"We've had people pack their items into something like a laundry basket and then wrap it up with a shower curtain," she said. "Those little things help people, too."

The Office of Civic Engagement works with area agencies such as the Red Cross, two Head Start programs and the Union County Assistance Office to procure a list of families in need. The goal each year is 120 baskets, the contents of which can help as many as 700 people, Pierson said. Numerous groups of Bucknellians create baskets, including Bucknell Student Government, Greek organizations, academic departments, administrative offices and more. This year, the total reached 134.

"Bucknell's generosity with this effort will have a huge impact on our very local community," Pierson said. "Many of us can take having access to food for granted, much less how much we take for granted having special food for the holidays."

Turkey & Trimmings is a program that speaks not only to the spirit of giving, but also to Bucknell's mission to engage with the community at large, said Erin Reph '18, an intern with the Office of Civic Engagement who has helped with the program for two years.

"The fact that we have this office speaks to the interests and desires of students, faculty and the community as a whole," Reph said. "It gives us the opportunity to give back."