ECHO distribution will feed 2,400 people on Thanksgiving
By the numbers
The ECHO Thanksgiving food drive was held Saturday at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds in Janesville
-- 400-plus volunteers helping distribute food
-- 875 households provided with a tradition Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner
-- 2,443 Janesville residents in those 875 households (some families share households to help make ends meet)
-- 721 households served last year
-- 1,945 Janesville residents served last year
JANESVILLE More than 2,400 Janesville residents will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner next week thanks to Everyone Cooperating to Help Others and hundreds of volunteers who gathered Saturday to distribute the dinner ingredients.
‘We have more than 400 volunteers here today to help distribute food to the recipients and deliver to families who can’t make it here,” said Fran Brien, the ECHO volunteer coordinator overseeing the food distribution at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds. “We had drivers pick up food early this morning at Sentry west, and then all these volunteers came in to set up the distribution center.”
Boxes of stuffing and instant mashed potatoes along with cans of corn, beans and other food items were put into paper bags for distribution.
“We then provide shopping carts for recipients to get their turkeys, a bag of potatoes, bread and other items,” Brien said. “Also, every family gets a pumpkin pie, butter, milk and a dozen homemade cookies.”
Brien and her volunteers distributed 875 Thanksgiving meals. Each meal will feed four to six people.
“The 875 Thanksgiving baskets will feed 2,443 people,” said Jessica Schafer-Locher, an ECHO employee. “Many of our households have multiple families to help make ends meet.”
Recipients registered earlier in the week at ECHO for the baskets.
“To be eligible for a basket, recipients must be Janesville residents and meet the low-income requirement,” said ECHO employee Karen Zapotosky. “They present their voucher here today, and we help them assemble the food items for the basket.”
The volunteers include individuals and members of organizations, Brien said.
“We have 4-H club members, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, church groups—you name it.
“We also have students who are volunteering to meet their community service requirements,” Brien said. “It’s amazing how many volunteers come out to help.”
ECHO employee Cheryl Maveety coordinated home delivery efforts.
“We are delivering baskets to 242 families today,” she said. “These are folks who are homebound, have no means of transportation or are otherwise unable to come to the fairgrounds. We make sure they do not miss their Thanksgiving dinner.”
Hundreds of vehicles descended upon the fairgrounds starting at 9 a.m. It was up to ECHO’s Marge Sell to make sure things went smoothly.
From her station at the Craig Avenue entrance, Sell directed traffic.
“This entrance is for volunteer vehicles delivering baskets,” she said. “I’ve had to direct recipients to the Memorial Drive entrance. That’s caused some confusion, but we were able to get everyone where they belong.”
This year’s Thanksgiving food drive was termed a success by Schafer-Locher, who said 2012 exceeded last year’s effort.
“Last year we served 721 household baskets for 1,945 people,” she said. “This year we’re more than 800 households and 2,400 people.
ECHO Executive Director Karen Lisser coordinated Saturday’s distribution.
“Not only are we helping those people with needs, we are seeing a phenomenal outpouring of volunteers in our community,” Lisser said. “It’s very heartwarming.”