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‘A God-sent blessing’: How a community service is feeding 600 Utahns this Thanksgiving

Volunteer Amber Greenwell bags food who need it for Thanksgiving at Catholic Community Services Basic Needs Ogden in Utah.
Volunteer Amber Greenwell bags food for those in need at Catholic Community Services Basic Needs Ogden in Ogden on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Greenwell is a planning and management manager for America First Credit Union and joined other America First employees for the volunteer opportunity.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

OGDEN — More than 20 volunteers efficiently moved around the pantry inside Catholic Community Services Tuesday, filling bags with holiday food items and placing them into a line of grocery carts for the next individual or family to walk through the door.

Their efforts brought a big smile to the face of Charlotte Tillman, a 75-year-old woman with poor eyesight and a limited income who cares for a disabled grandson.

Moments after exiting, Tillman expressed her deep gratitude for the cart full of holiday fixings, as well as the many hands who prepared it.

“To come here shopping, oh, is a God-sent blessing,” Tillman said.

Tillman is one of 600 people receiving holiday food from Catholic Community Services in Ogden this week. Each year CCS distributes everything a family could need for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, including a turkey, pies, pie crust, pie filling, eggs, stuffing, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.

There are only 10 people on the CCS staff, so volunteers are always welcome. A group of more than 20 employees from longtime community partner America First Credit Union, as well as other volunteers, showed up Tuesday morning the help distribute food, said Randy Chappell, director of basic needs at Catholic Community Services in Ogden.

“It’s a crazy day, but a fun day,” Chappell said. “Hopefully they walk away knowing that they made a difference, that they provided a meal for someone or a family that they can enjoy during Thanksgiving.”

Miley and Orlando watch their mother Marisol Franco load Thanksgiving food into the car at Catholic Community Services in Ogden.
Marisol Franco loads a cart of food from Catholic Community Services into her car with her children Miley and Orlando outside of Catholic Community Services Basic Needs Ogden in Ogden on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Serving in the pantry was a “humbling experience,” said Aimee Nelson, a volunteer and the charitable outreach administrator at America First.

“I feel very humbled to see these people that need just a little bit of extra help to get them on their feet,” she said. “It’s a really neat experience ... but this is just a drop in the bucket. We know there is a bigger need, but to help serve, even if it’s one person, it’s so important.”

Another volunteer, Mike Crossley, a vice president of processing, has served at CCS on previous occasions and loves it.

“One of my favorite things is to be able to help somebody and watch their faces, whether they are children or adults, as they are struggling through different areas of their life,” Crossley said. “This offers a little bit of a glimmer of hope for them. Just being able to participate and share with that makes it all worthwhile.”

Volunteer Jake Hall helps load up a cart of food for Mindi Sanders at Catholic Community Services Basic Needs in Ogden, Utah.
Volunteer Jake Hall helps load up a cart of food for Mindi Sanders at Catholic Community Services Basic Needs in Ogden on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Hall, a marketing strategies and analysis manager at America First, joined other America First employees for the volunteer opportunity.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The food pickup Tuesday was so fast and efficient that 71-year-old Tom Lindhardt was left waiting outside for his ride much sooner than he expected. But he didn’t mind. It was a nice day and he was thankful for the food.

“You know, there’s been times where we could barely afford a TV turkey dinner,” he said. “I’m very grateful that we could be on this program.”

Tillman praised the CCS staff and volunteers.

“They know me. I’ve been here about three years,” she said. “They are courteous. They care about you. They are devoted. They are just good people. They make me feel like I’m important and that I can keep my independence.”

For people like Lindhardt and Tillman, this is one less meal they have to worry about, said Ken Donovan, the pantry manager.

Volunteer Jordan Allen bags food for those in need at Catholic Community Services Basic Needs Ogden in Ogden, Utah.
Volunteer Jordan Allen bags food for those in need at Catholic Community Services Basic Needs Ogden in Ogden on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Allen is a social media administrator for America First and joined other America First employees for the volunteer opportunity.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“When we opened it up two times a month, and then to unlimited, we had so many families coming in and they are walking out with three carts of food, and they are just crying the entire time they are shopping,” Donovan said. “They are like, ‘You saved our family. I don’t know what we would do if you weren’t here.’ We get that a lot.”

Donovan expressed gratitude for a good working relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which consistently supplies food from the Bishop’s Storehouse.

“We just ordered another 100 turkeys from the Bishop’s Storehouse and they stepped up and got it for us,” Donovan said.

To learn more about Catholic Community Services and their programs or how to volunteer, visit ccsutah.org.

Volunteer Andrew Franks bags potatoes at Catholic Community Services, which will be distributed to those in need this Thanksgiving.
Volunteer Andrew Franks bags potatoes, which will be distributed to those in need for Thanksgiving, at Catholic Community Services Basic Needs Ogden in Ogden on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News