OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The WestTown Shelter in OKC, headquarters of OKC’s Homeless Alliance, was quite a bit busier than usual Wednesday morning as hungry visitors began pouring in, all looking forward to the shelter’s annual Thanksgiving feast.
For the tenth year running, employees of the Homeless Alliance, backed by an army of eager volunteers and collaborators, have worked tirelessly to provide a warm, flavorful, and comforting meal for anyone in need during the holiday season.
“We provide breakfast and lunch year-round, but we’ve always wanted our Thanksgiving meal to be something special for the people we serve,” said Kinsey Crocker, Director of Communications for the Alliance. “Our meal is on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to offer our guests an opportunity to get two big meals, one from us and one from another charitable organization in OKC providing meals to the community on Thanksgiving Day.”
Thanks to continuing donations, both from the local community and beyond, the meal has grown significantly to not only accommodate more guests but to offer them even more fantastic and anticipated foods.
“We actually got 80 turkeys donated this year from Butterball,” Crocker said, “and the culinary studies department at Francis Tuttle let us use their ovens and we even got to bring in our volunteers there where they showed them how to carve and prepare the turkeys and everything.”
Though the ongoing pandemic has caused a major reduction in the number of visitors coming to enjoy the meal, they still hope to see up to 350 people this year.
Many of those visitors are familiar to the Alliance employees.
One of the day’s guests, a man named Josh, was more than happy to talk about his excitement for the food, but when asked about the Homeless Alliance’s work in general, he just wanted to sing the praises of the organization’s various helpful programs.
“They’ve got everything you need,” he said. “They’ve got advocates here for social security, advocates for housing, whatever you need.”
Another visitor, who asked to go by Robin T., said that she has been working with the Alliance recently to secure housing (a process that can take up to a full year in some cases due to availability and regulations, much to the sadness and dismay of the employees themselves) and that she’s thankful for the programs and help they offer.
But in advance of the big meal, everyone is just thinking about the food.
“The pecan pie,” Robin said with no hesitation. “That’s what I’m most looking forward to today.”
With so much generously donated for the holiday, everyone is already planning for the leftovers.
Kitchen Manager Delbert Briggs has been with the Homeless Alliance since they first opened the WestTown Shelter in 2011. He’s been through each and every Thanksgiving meal they’ve offered, and he’s already thinking of the week ahead.
“They sent all of these turkeys to us, and we’re not going to go through them all today,” he explained. “I’ll be making turkey casserole and turkey everything over the next few days.”
Guests and hungry visitors can count on Delbert all year long for warm and wonderful meals, but for this holiday feast, he has some notable help.
Brad Johnson, Executive Chef for the Hal Smith Restaurant Group, has been joining with the Homeless Alliance at this time for years to not only help coordinate and execute the meal, but also to provide some delicious sides and extras (this year it was mashed potatoes, green beans, and candied yams.)
Johnson was focused purely on getting the food prepared and served, with no interest in wasting any time chatting with the press.
“He’s honestly shy,” Crocker told us. “He really doesn’t do this for publicity or anything. He just wants to help and give back.”
That sentiment was clearly echoed throughout the Homeless Alliance’s staff and various volunteers. They aren’t there for glory or to get their faces on TV or in pictures. They’re just trying to help people and to feed people and to give their guests a warm, comfortable holiday, and then hopefully to continue helping them well after as well.
“Our ultimate goal is housing,” Crocker explained. “In addition to operating the Day Shelter, we operate several housing programs and helped house 810 people last year.”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing needs for housing, food, or help with things like Social Security or other programs, contact the Homeless Alliance online at homelessalliance.org, by phone at (405) 415-8410, or stop by the WestTown Day Shelter at 1724 NW 4th St. in OKC.
For a free hot meal on Thanksgiving Day, visit any of the following locations:
Grace Rescue Mission
2205 Exchange Ave, OKC
10:00am to 1:00pm
1001 Pennsylvania Ave, OKC
11:00am to 1:00pm
Edmond Community Thanksgiving Meal at UCO
100 N. University Dr., Edmond
11:00am to 3:00pm
Food & Shelter at Norman High School
911 W. Main St., Norman
11:00am to 1:00pm
Last Updated November 24, 2021, 5:56 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor