LOWELL — Cars were wrapped around multiple blocks in the streets around the Dwelling House of Hope Saturday morning as volunteers handed out thousands of turkeys, meals and grocery store gift cards to families in need for the 24th Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway.
Volunteers for DHH and United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley boxed thousands of meals with canned goods, staple vegetables like potatoes and onions, basic pantry foods and turkeys in a chaotic operation that resulted in families getting what they needed to make a proper Thanksgiving meal when it otherwise might not have been affordable.
So many families showed up for meal boxes Saturday morning that cars were wrapped around multiple blocks in the neighborhood around DHH, with some having lined up for hours before meals even began to be handed out at 8 a.m.
DHH founder and Executive Director Levenia Furusa said amid the organized chaos that in Lowell, more than 4,400 meals were being given out between turkeys, meal boxes and grocery store gift cards.
“I love to serve this community,” said Furusa, who founded DHH in her basement in 2009 after coming to the U.S. from Zimbabwe in 1996. “There have been immigrants, there were refugees, we’ve given food to all different kinds of people from all over.”
Furusa said that while the event was going smoothly, she is hoping to raise funds so that DHH can purchase a truck to be used in these large food distribution operations, as they otherwise have to rent several trucks each time, which costs DHH money that could be used to get more food.
United Way Operations Director for Community Impact Nicole Shiner said during the giveaway that the meals being handed out in Lowell were part of a larger effort for United Way’s Gratitude Project Saturday to hand out 7,600 meals in cities across Eastern Massachusetts, including Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn, Dorchester, Quincy and Attleboro.
Shiner said the meals being handed out in previous years were more “Thanksgiving focused,” whereas this year they chose to change up the bags’ contents for those who need the meals but don’t necessarily celebrate Thanksgiving. The meal kits included potatoes, onions, carrots, corn, black beans, garbanzo beans, rice, salt and a box of cornbread, Shiner said.