Local charity provides poor families with Thanksgiving dinner

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This Thanksgiving, thousands of families around Milwaukee will sit down and enjoy a holiday meal together. How each meal gets on the table, however, will not be the same in every household.

For those who are unable to purchase the necessary elements for a Thanksgiving meal, help will be provided in the form of a box filled with food they can make and eat, thanks to the House of Peace.

Each holiday season, the House of Peace, a Capuchin organization serving low-income families in Milwaukee, organizes a food drive for Thanksgiving meal items. The organization serves as a community center and also implements clothing and food drives and education initiatives.

With the food drive, the House of Peace creates more than 500 packages for families around Milwaukee who may not be able to afford such items.

According to Gerri Sheets-Howard, executive director of the House of Peace, the goal of the holiday food drive and distribution is to allow disadvantaged families in Milwaukee to be able to experience the closeness and intimacy of a holiday meal.

“When you sit down to a meal together, it’s a really special bonding moment for that family,” Sheets-Howard said.

The box includes all the the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal, including instant mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables like corn and green beans, corn bread and cranberry sauce. The package also includes a gift card to purchase meat for the meal, whether that be the traditional turkey or another kind of the families’ choosing.

Volunteers gathered at the House of Peace last Saturday to create each package so they would be ready to be distributed. The packages will be distributed to needy families through this Sunday.

In order to collect one of the House of Peace’s holiday packages, families must register for a self-improvement class offered by the organization. Classes include topics like financial literacy, parenting and job searching.

“We want to ensure that families who will be collecting food are taking a step to better themselves first,” Sheets-Howard said.

Volunteers who helped create the packages this past weekend said the event was a rewarding experience.

Nicole Fastabend, director of Christian Formation for the parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria, brought a group of 15 volunteers to help package the food. She said that the volunteers, who were mostly high school students, enjoyed their experiences at the House of Peace.

“We volunteered here a couple of years ago and (the volunteers) loved it so much they wanted to come back,” Fastabend said. “It’s really remarkable.”

Fastabend added that the experience of packaging the food appeals greatly to the students she brings to volunteer.

“It’s the time of year where people are really busy but also interested in giving back,” she said. “The kids really like it because they get to do something hands-on and know that they made a difference.”

Jack Walliseh, a high school student with the volunteer group, returned to the House of Peace after volunteering for the same event two years ago.

“It’s fun and I like competing with my friends to see who can make a package fastest,” he said. “Mostly, I just want to know that I made a difference for those less fortunate than me.”

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