Originally published: 11/22/2021
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Just as it’s done for some 15 years, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh hosted its annual Thanksgiving Day food distribution Saturday morning  — continuing a tradition of helping area families in need fill their bellies and feast in style for the holiday.

“This is a great thing,” said Kahlil Morris, who was part of a steady stream of people driving SUVs, vans and small buses from area social service agencies that stopped by the cavernous Hall D at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to pick up the turkey day donations and distribute them to the people they serve.

“It helps people who are less fortunate and fills the gap, especially with COVID and the loss of jobs,” said Mr. Kahlil, who is with Housing Opportunities Unlimited, a social services group based at the Oak Hill Apartments in the Hill District.

O’Hara-based Giant Eagle was the primary donor for the event, contributing $15 vouchers for whole turkeys, plus non-perishable goods, such as boxed stuffing, applesauce, muffin mix, cake mix, apple juice and canned green beans packaged in reusable blue shopping bags donated by Ikea.

In addition, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank provided boxes of fresh produce —  including carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, honeydew melon and a five-pound bag of white potatoes.

In a tip to the times, the care packages also included masks and information on COVID-19 vaccines.

Cindy Tuite, director of catering and special events for Manchester Bidwell Corp., said she’s seen a greater need for help this year from students at the non-profit’s Bidwell Training Center, a post-secondary job training program.

This year, the organization picked up donations to feed the families of 60 students, up from about 40 in previous years.

She said more people were struggling with job losses due to the pandemic.

Volunteers donning masks and gloves from the Boy Scouts, Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy and others were on hand to help load the donations.

In pre-pandemic years, the annual event included a health fair offering vision care, mammograms and flu shots. It also allowed individuals in need to pick up donations. Both services were suspended last year and this year.

In the early years, the annual drive served roughly 100 to 200 families. This year’s donations are expected to help some 900 households.