November 22, 2020 by Carol Britton Meyer
Interfaith Social Services Executive Director Rick Doane attributes prayer and the generosity of the Hingham community to the "Thanksgiving miracle" that occurred at the Quincy agency on Saturday.
After posting a call for help on Facebook Saturday when the United Way – the organization ISS was partnering with to provide 1,500 households with Thanksgiving meals – ran into "innumerable logistical challenges" and only a portion of the meal packages had arrived, Doane's post was shared on the Hingham Hub and other Facebook pages.
Hingham residents Ally Donnelly and Cindy Simonides and another friend, Maura O'Brien of Scituate – who is an ISS volunteer – coordinated the effort to quickly raise the needed funds.
There was an immediate outpouring of generosity, and within hours $25,000 was donated by Hingham residents to purchase gift cards and for volunteers to buy groceries for Thanksgiving meals at local supermarkets to fill the gap until the rest of the food arrived later in the afternoon.
"The people of Hingham stepped up and made it happen," Doane said. "Prayer and caring people helping out is what a community is all about."
Donnelly said the response from the Hingham community was "fantastic. Cindy, Maura, and I put out posts and people started Venmo-ing me – at first it was $50, then $100, then $1,000 donations," Donnelly said. "The generosity and the speed at which people responded was stunning and so affirming. We presented a community in need, and the Hingham community answered the call. In such a divisive time, seeing people come together like this is awesome."
One Hingham resident donated $10,000, and Cambridge Savings Bank contributed $5,000, coordinated by a Scituate resident.
Paul Wahlberger of Alma Nove and Wahlburger's fame donated the turkey and fixings for 200 meals for families to cook for their Thanksgiving dinner.
The United Way provides thousands of dollars-worth of food for the Thanksgiving meals, but due to a glitch beyond the organization's control, most of the food hadn't arrived as scheduled and Doane started to get concerned and posted on Facebook asking for prayers that the delivery would be made on time. "Please pray for a Thanksgiving miracle. I believe in the power of prayer!" he said in the post.
Not only did donations pour in, but the truck carrying the remainder of the meal packages arrived in time to serve the rest of the people waiting to pick up their Thanksgiving dinners.
"It was a great group effort. Not a single person went hungry. Nobody was turned away," Doane said. "Everyone who drove or walked up received what they needed for a holiday meal.
This holiday season, "need is closer than ever, with illness, mental health concerns, and businesses struggling," Simonides said. "Yesterday I found out that Hingham understands it... People are mobilizing faster and more intensely than ever, and I think we do have social media and technology... to thank for the ability to do that and to commit resources to empathy and to answer need, full speed."
People who sign up are either given meal baskets containing a turkey with all the accompaniments or gift cards to purchase the food themselves.
This year there was a greater need than ever due to the pandemic. In contrast, Thanksgiving meals were provided for about 900 households in 2019 as compared with 1,500 this Thanksgiving.
"There's so much negativity out there, but this is an example that shows that in a time of need the community steps up. That's what we saw yesterday," Doane said. In all, 4,000 individuals benefitted from the effort.
It's important for people to feel loved all the time, he said, "but especially right now when many people who are already struggling aren't able to be with family members. The least we can do is to bring a little happiness and joy into their lives to lift their spirits. Everyone was incredibly grateful yesterday when they picked up their Thanksgiving meals. Mission accomplished!"
Leftover donations – which continued to arrive even after the food was distributed – will be used to buy Christmas gifts for some of the hundreds of children ISS will serve this year.
"Last year we provided gifts to about 500 children, and this year so far we have more than 650 signed up before Thanksgiving," Doane said. "So the generous donations made yesterday will keep on blessing people."
Interfaith Social Services hosts one of Greater Boston’s largest food pantries, providing emergency food to families and individuals since 1975. Last year volunteers distributed more than 940,000 pounds of food to hungry families.