Suellen Vorderbruggen unloaded a frozen turkey and a box of macaroni and cheese, green beans and more into the trunk of her car.
“I probably wouldn't have gotten a turkey otherwise today,” said the Duluth woman. “We’ve been very grateful and feel blessed because we’ll have dinner.”
Vorderbruggen was among folks lining up around the corner of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church early Monday to pick up one of CHUM’s Thanksgiving boxes.
“Folks were banging on their horns at 8:15 a.m.,” said Scott Van Daele, CHUM distribution director. “We might break a record today and knock this out in 30 minutes.”
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Van Daele and volunteers issued about 120 turkeys Monday, the first of the food shelf’s Thanksgiving box giveaway days, and they expect to dole out about 150 at 10 a.m. Wednesday at their downtown location, 120 N. First Ave W.
CHUM is among this holiday’s meal help — including the College of St. Scholastica’s 32nd annual Thanksgiving Buffet, which will be delivered this year due to the pandemic. The food shelf saw early record-breaking donations this holiday season.
The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce raised more than $3,000 and North Shore Bank raised $10,500. And the largest donation: an anonymous $18,000 check.
That’s a total of $30,000 for the food shelf, which is “a little off-the-wall bonkers,” said Van Daele.
Asked if CHUM regularly sees donations like the check, Van Daele said they often see them in the $5,000 range. “When we get above $10,000, it’s a heart-stopping moment,” he added.
“Everybody is waiting for the generosity to die out, and I think eventually it will, but COVID has made people incredibly generous,” Van Daele said. “Whether it’s providing food, sleeping bags, coats and boots, when we put it out there, it comes in truckloads — and it needs to keep coming.”
This Thanksgiving is one of the most expensive on record. CHUM spent about $15,000 on turkeys compared to the typical $10,000-$12,000 due to rising food prices.
Plus, the need for assistance is higher.
In the past six years, CHUM increased turkeys from 100 to 300, and there will still be folks who don’t get a box — also a reality of their normal distribution days.
Van Daele started preparing for this week’s donations in July. “It takes so long to plan, more than $20,000, and to watch it disappear in a matter of hours is scary to me,” he said.
The extra funds this year went to First Lutheran, First United Methodist and Gloria Dei churches, whose members baked more than 300 pies for the boxes. What’s left will go to other holiday food purchases, Van Daele said.
The majority of people on Monday were seniors, noted Van Daele, and Wednesday will see a different demographic of children and young families.
Last Thanksgiving, CHUM saw 466 children and 63 seniors.
“There are 38 turkeys left,” announced Van Daele with a line of people still wrapped around the corner.
“Don’t ever think that we have enough because we don’t. We’ll need and spend more next time,” Van Daele told the News Tribune.
“Hunger doesn’t stop after the holidays. It doesn’t take a break or a vacation. It’s steadily increasing,” he said.
Vorderbruggen said this is a great asset in our community.
She planned to share Monday’s bounty with her daughter and grandson.
“This will put meat on her table,” Vorderbruggen added.
Next Thanksgiving box distribution
Folks are encouraged to arrive early.
10 a.m. Wednesday at Chum Food Shelf, 120 N. First Ave. W.