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Urban Mission looks to holiday time support

THANKFUL FOR HELP — Urban Mission Ministries is preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday, ever appreciative of the public’s prayers, willingness to volunteer and generosity in donations financial and otherwise. Helping in that holiday planning process to assist as many as 1,500 families in need are mission representatives, seated, from left, Terrence Rainbow, Amber Wade, the Rev. Ashley Steele and Cynthia Lytle, holding son Wayne; and standing, Rod Harton, Tiffany Beckwith, intern Liz Boros as Thom Turkey and Kelly Jeffers. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, but the holiday is something that Urban Mission Ministries starts planning for months in advance, according to the Rev. Ashley Steele, the mission’s executive director.

“We’ve been preparing since the summer,” Steele said recently. “We do that when we can order food from the Ohio Food Bank. We expect anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 families. It’s something that we prepare for knowing that during the holiday season, the winter months, that the visits to the pantry pick up,” she said, referring to the mission’s Client Choice pantry where those in need “shop” as opposed to receiving a “Thanksgiving basket” as was the tradition in years past.

“Everybody wants to have a full table on Thanksgiving day, and so we try to help people prepare for that,” Steele added.

“We’ll be distributing throughout the entire month of November, though, so people can come in early to receive their food or closer to the time of Thanksgiving,” Steele said of food distribution routine in place at the Client Choice food pantry. “Every week the kind of produce we have changes, but that’s something we’ve been pushing a lot this year, is to have fresh foods for folks so produce, eggs, milk, things that we may not have always had in the past, we’re really pushing that this year,” Steele explained.

Donations of financial gifts are appreciated, she said, and allow the mission to stretch its purchasing ability. “It allows us to purchase a lot more food than even just going to local grocery store. Right now for every dollar we get donated, we can purchase anywhere from $10 to $11 worth of food from the food bank, and that’s the fresh milk, egg, butter and those kind of things,” she said.

Harder to come by through that resource, however, are sweets.

“Yes, that’s something we’ve had a little more difficulty finding through the food bank, but you have to have something sweet during the holidays,” Steele said with a smile. Donations of cake mixes and frosting would be appreciated, she said. “We also could receive pies because that’s something special this time of the year, and in the past people have baked pies and brought them to us or just provided us the opportunity to purchase them, but we know cake mix and frosting is something relatively easy to do (donate,)” she said.

Another part of the mission’s Thanksgiving observance is having a holiday meal at Unity Kitchen, 301 N. Fifth St. The family style sit-down meal open to all will be held Nov. 27. “We typically serve from noon to 1 p.m. , but we know there will be a larger crowd so we sometimes start serving a little early and a little later until everyone is done,” Steele said.

The mission’s Thanksgiving message and needs are communicated in part through Thom Turkey, who visits classrooms, businesses, schools, churches and events to shed insight on local hunger issues. Each visit includes a special presentation and a photo opportunity. To schedule a visit, call (740) 282-8010.

With “Love Works” the ongoing theme during the mission’s observance of its 60-year anniversary, there are several ways to assist at Thanksgiving, according to Steele, including:

¯ Pray for the mission and the more than 1,000 families it serves;

¯ Give a gift of $35 that can provide a family of four with a special holiday meal with leftovers. Donations can be given online at www.urbanmission.org or by mailing a donation to the War Memorial Building at 423 North St., Steubenville OH 43952;

¯ Volunteer at the Client Choice food pantry and Unity Kitchen by contacting Tiffany Beckwith, the mission’s community engagement director, at (740) 282-8010; and

¯ Donate items such as cake mixes, frosting and canned sweet potatoes. Roasters, pot holders, silverware and plastic bags are being collected at the Unity Kitchen. Donations can be dropped off at the War Memorial Building.

¯ Donate turkeys. “We always will receive turkeys because we just cook tons of turkeys, not only at Unity Kitchen but at our shelters, so we’ll make sure we have a Thanksgiving meal for everyone,” Steele said. “Turkeys are always wonderful gifts because typically if we don’t receive them, we have to go out and buy them,” she said.

With Thanksgiving close at hand, Christmas planning is off and running as well, according to Steele.

“It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas, and for us we’ll be providing Christmas typically for more than a thousand children who will come through one of our programs this year,” Steele said. “Already we are collecting toys or financial donations to purchase toys, and we’re collecting toiletries for teens, so that process has already started. If somebody sees a good deal in the stores and would like to purchase something for children from birth to age 12, toys for those age groups are something we can easily receive now at the War Memorial Building,” she said, noting the Christmas distribution will take place in the Seventh Street Plaza in downtown Steubenville.

Donations, prayers and volunteers are blessings, according to Steele.

“It really takes all of that to make it a meaningful holiday season for us, and we can’t do this work without the community,” she said. “I love this time of the year because we really do see a lot of people come and give so freely, but I think also receive something at the same time and that’s why we always invite people to come and be a part of what’s taking place where they can see their gifts at work.”

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