Thanksgiving is the time of feasting with family and celebrating the productivity of the year.
But for many Kentucky families, food insecurity remains an issue that hampers their celebrations.
That's where God's Pantry Food Bank comes into play, supplying needed nutrition to families in central and eastern Kentucky.
On Saturday, participants ensured that many families will have a happy Thanksgiving by giving their time and effort to assemble food boxes for those families. The Basket Brigade brought out people from across the Laurel County community to assist in the effort, with over 1,000 boxes packed in four hours.
Mike Halligan, CEO of God's Pantry, said the goal for the London office was 950 baskets as part of their "Sharing Thanksgiving" program.
"Overall, we have 6,450 baskets that will be distributed across central and eastern Kentucky," he said. "The distribution for this area will be The Creek Church on Nov. 20. We have referrals for 950 families in the Laurel, Clay and Jackson County area."
Saturday's assembly included the non-perishable items such as green beans, corn, yams, pear halves, spiced apples, fudge brownies, stuffing mix, gravy mix, and three varieties of Girl Scout cookies. On distribution day, the boxes will be accented with a turkey, potatoes, margarine, eggs and onions.
"There is enough in the boxes to feed a family of eight," Halligan added.
While the Girl Scout cookies were donated, the remaining items were purchased through donations from local businesses. Arby's, The Creek Church, Duff Family Coal, Randall and Victoria Weddle, CHI Saint Joseph London, PNC Bank, Cumberland Valley National Bank & Trust, Jackson Energy, Hometown Bank, and Prairie Farms comprised one-third of the sponsorships with $50,000 of the total $150,000 collected for the baskets.
"The folks in this community understand the need and make a big difference with those suffering from hunger," Halligan added. "It's obvious that the London community cares deeply. There are so many organizations that make a huge impact on the less fortunate. It's about those experiencing hunger and the fact that there are people here on a Saturday and the number of sponsors tells how generous this community really is."
There were approximately 70 participants in the effort, which made the efforts move quickly on Saturday morning.
Vickie Phelps, warehouse leader at the London God's Pantry, said the efforts to provide food has always been outstanding by the London community.
"The people in Laurel County are always wonderful to support us," Phelps said. "We could have done more because we always have people ready to help."
Phelps said food insufficiency is definitely a problem in the area.
"We get five calls a day from someone wanting food," she said. "The big reward here is getting people access to better their lives. It's a blessing for me."
That blessing is even more so when she considers that most of the people assisting in the efforts are elderly.
"Ninety percent of the participants are 65 or 70 years old and they still want to help," she said. "It's a joy to see that."
By the end of the day, around 1 p.m., the food was packed and the participants exceeded their goal of 950 baskets by assembling 1,042.
Halligan said those in need often do not know where to turn for help. However, he said that help is available by simply contacting God's Pantry.
"If people need food assistance, they can go to Godspantryfoodbank.org. Find the link and click on 'Find Help.' Put in the county you live in or enter your zip code into the map and it will bring up a list of the pantries closest to where you live," he explained. "We don't want anyone going hungry."
There are several distribution centers in the Laurel area, including one recently opened at the Pulaski/Rockcastle County line. Pantries are also located in Laurel, Floyd Rowan, Clark and Fayette counties.