Nearly 30 years ago, a group of people met in Jim Cronin’s family room and assembled baskets full of Thanksgiving food for 12 families.
Since that day, the project has taken on a life of its own. Each year, more and more people gather to pack more and more baskets. After the first year, they moved to Cronin’s front lawn. And this year, hundreds gathered at Abiding Hope Church in South Jeffco to pack some 1,200 baskets with nearly $50,000 worth of food, including discounted items from Walmart and tons of donated potatoes from Hi-Land Potato Co. in Monte Vista
With years of practice under its belt, the operation now runs like a well-oiled machine. Last Thursday, volunteers, arranged in an assembly line, passed bags, boxes and cartons of food from a loading truck through the gym into carefully organized piles.
Though Cronin considers himself “the lucky one to start it,” he recognizes the project is very much a community effort.
“The people own it,” he said.
Doug Hill, lead pastor at Abiding Hope, agreed, marveling at the number of folks who showed up to lend a hand.
“It provides an opportunity for people in the community to come and serve,” Hill said. “… This is a real community effort.”
That is indeed the case. Last Thursday, hundreds packed the gymnasium at Abiding Hope to sort the food, and even more would return the following day to pack boxes. Some were church goers, but many were not. For instance, players on the D’Evelyn Jr/Sr High School varsity basketball team kicked off their season at the Thanksgiving event.
Since the basket packing fell on the first week of practice, it served as a team-building event and a chance for the players to get to know each other off the court.
Although organizer Eileen Schoenberger used to have sons on the team, this was the first year she did not. It didn’t matter, though. The D’Evelyn boys came anyways.
“It’s a tradition for our program,” said head coach Dan Zinn.
When all is said and done, the baskets will be delivered to area agencies who can distribute them to families in need. In Cronin’s mind, the baskets provide more than food for the people receiving them.
“What we’re giving people more than that is we’re giving them hope,” he said. “… There’s hope out there for them. That’s the big thing.”
Jim Warren, a long-time volunteer and congregant at Abiding Hope, had similar remarks. From the moment all the boxes are packed and out the door, Warren starts looking forward to next year’s event.
“This builds my year,” he said. “… I take the week off, and I do anything I can. It’s just awesome. It fills me up. It’s the giving. It’s the finding the people that need it.”