Fairbanks, AK - The Fairbanks Community Foodbank served 46-thousand residents last year. Half of them were children. This year, there’s no telling where those numbers will shake out. Today (Wednesday) is the busiest day of the year for staff and volunteers, who plan to fill at least 2200 boxes with Thanksgiving food for families across the Tanana Valley.
More than 30 volunteers buzz around a warehouse like worker bees. They push carts, toss cans of food into boxes and check lists. The Fairbanks Community Foodbank smells delicious, despite the cement floor and the florescent lighting. At the back of the warehouse, pallets are piled high with familiar foods. Larry Baillon is a foodbank volunteer. "We’ve got stuffing, cranberry sauce, soup, green beans corn, onion and yams. Over here we’ve got potatoes carrots, onions and celery."
100 percent of this food has been donated by people like Brian Johnson, who saunters through the warehouse door and hands a fat, fresh turkey to a hurried volunteer. “I donate something every year," he says. "I usually donate time, sometimes we come and do the boxes and what not l, so this year, I don’t have the time so I had the Turkey! Hopefully they’ll put it go use and someone will enjoy it and have a good day.”
Executive Director Samantha Kirstein isn’t surprised. She’s been with the food bank for more than two decades. “’I’ve seen turkey’s appear out of nowhere," she says. "But I suppose the most memorable event in 23 years is the time we were out of food. I saw a man crossing the street, he was on crutches, I remember the snow, the moment. It was one of those moments that you just remember and he was coming to ask us for a food box, which we did not have and all of a sudden a person drove up in a car and they had a perfectly beautifully packed food box that they were able to hand over. That happens every Thanksgiving in some way.”
Kirstein’s daughter, Ann Weaver is also an Executive Director. She expects at least 150 volunteers to help pack and deliver food boxes today, the busiest day of the year. “We’re so excited though, because this community always does give us so much different food, that when folks go home on Thanksgiving with their boxes," she says, "they’ve got enough food to be able to feed their family or their household, whoever’s with them. It’s so amazing, it was packed with so much love by the community, it was packed with so much concern and so one of the messages we’re able to get out is that we care.”
Last year the Foodbank planned to deliver 2000 boxes, but that number climbed to 2200. This year, the organization will pack 2200, but there’s no way to know just how many might go out. As for Brian Johnson’s turkey? It will complete a food box filled with all the trimmings.
You can find out how to volunteer or donate to the food bank at fairbanksfoodbank.org.