Goodman Community Center distributes 1400 Thanksgiving baskets

Goodman Community Center is helping 1400 families and individuals eat a traditional holiday meal on Thursday. The center followed through with their Thanksgiving basket program this year, despite new fundraising hurdles.

Last week, supplies lined the walls of Goodman’s gymnasium. Stuffing mix, canned corn, fresh potatoes, bags of onions and of course cans of pumpkin were stacked high.

For Kathy Utley, Goodman’s Food Security Coordinator, the days leading up to Thanksgiving are hectic. With the help of many volunteers, Utley collects and disperses thousands of pounds of holiday foodstuffs. Finding enough turkeys was challenging this year.

“We started with zero turkeys this year,” she said. Usually Community Action Coalition (CAC) supplies a substantial portion of Goodman’s turkey fundraising goal.

“They [CAC] had to make a difficult decision this year and make budget cuts to fulfill their mission,” Utley said.

The result of those budget cuts meant starting Goodman’s fundraising push without the 700 turkeys CAC contributed last year.

The turkey deficit occurred in conjunction with increased demand for the free Thanksgiving baskets. Utley thinks there are more Goodman basket requests for several reasons.

“Because CAC isn’t giving turkeys, less organization are doing baskets,” Utley said.  “And probably the economy. Food prices are going up.”

Goodman’s efforts to meet their turkey needs were numerous. They partnered with Hy-Vee for a special fundraiser and petitioned Woodman’s, who gave 500 turkey gift certificates. Utley also approached other businesses and appealed to individuals for donations.

At one point, the community center thought they had reached their goal, but found out four days before distribution that they still needed several hundred more turkeys. Ultimately, Goodman supplied the turkeys by dipping deeper into their budget.

Sunday was the first basket pick-up day. Volunteers gathered at the community center’s gymnasium to organize supplies, hand out food, and direct traffic.

Kevin Mundt, a Goodman volunteer, stood at the driveway entrance to manage the car flow.

“There was a huge line at the beginning,” he said. Mundt volunteered many hours to help organize the basket program this year.

This is the first year Goodman is trying a drive-thru system for Thanksgiving basket pick-up. Many volunteers stood at the ready with carts full of food. A UW-Madison accounting student group brought 15 volunteers to help distribute the goods.

“Each car gets a non-perishable bag, a perishable bag, a bag with milk and ice cream and then a ham or turkey,” said Stephanie Nelson, a student volunteer. The non-perishable bag held items like an aluminum pie pan and roasting pan.

Another volunteer, Amadou Fofana, is now a student at Edgewood College but has volunteered at Goodman since high school.

“I should probably be home studying, but this is my break,” he said. Most families, Fofana said, were choosing a turkey over a ham.

The Thanksgiving basket distribution runs from Sunday through Wednesday.

“Goodman Community Center has been doing this for about 25 years,” Utley said. “It’s a very established tradition for this part of the city.”