Service organizations in Kodiak are trying to find ways to help feed the homeless and others in need during Thanksgiving, despite restrictions implemented to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.   

David Minshall is a newcomer to the island who works as a physical therapist with the U.S. Coast Guard. Passionate about improving food security and aware of widespread problems with people struggling with hunger in the United States, he wanted to help during the holiday season. 

“Every day, my calling is to help people in need of food because if you can’t eat, it’s hard to do anything else,” said Minshall, who is originally from Alaska but moved away for 20 years. 

Minshall spoke to Pastor Larry Lundstrom, who helps run the volunteer Kodiak Support Team, and packed boxes full of Thanksgiving food for people who have received grants from the group. Minshall delivered boxes to 14 families, feeding 51 people. 

He and his fiancé Helen Graves, who works as a nurse at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center, filled boxes with 12-to-16-pound turkeys, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet canned corn, russet potatoes, carrots, onions, butter, gravy and pies from Safeway. For people who live on their own, he bought them each a single chicken breast with all the fixings. 

Minshall used his own money as well as donations from a friend and from the Community Baptist Church, which amounted to a total of $1,000. Minshall said the recipients were extremely grateful for the boxes of food. 

“They were appreciative. It goes to show you, there is a need for more work to be done out there,” said Minshall, who has also volunteered at the soup kitchen hosted on Saturday by the Abba Father’s Christian Fellowship Church.  

Many residents in Kodiak depend on these volunteers and service organizations for a hearty Thanksgiving meal.

Numerous organizations around town typically provide potlucks and hot meals for community members around this time of year. However, because of the pandemic, many organizations have had to change or limit their Thanksgiving celebration.

Kodiak’s Brother Francis Shelter, in collaboration with the Coast Guard Spouses’ Association of Kodiak, typically serves 25 to 35 community members with their annual meal. Normally it is open to the public, but this year they are restricting the meal to current clients. 

The American Legion, which hosts the largest annual community event, typically serves between 200 and 300 people around Thanksgiving. This year, however, the event will be restricted to their “regular Legion family” of about 50 to 80 people, said Helen Hartman, the club manager. 

They will also make to-go meals for the Kodiak Senior Center and for on-duty police officers at the Kodiak Police Department. 

The faith-based Kodiak Area Mentor Program — an organization that helps people struggling with substance-use issues — will hand out turkey sandwiches on Friday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

The organization usually serves a Thanksgiving meal to community members. 

With the persistence of positive COVID-19 cases on the island — especially those categorized as community spread — local health officials have urged residents to stay within their social bubble for Thanksgiving. The federal government has issued similar guidelines.

“Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu,” the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said in a press release earlier this week.

“If having guests to your home, limit the number of guests, have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.”

The CDC suggested that those celebrating indoors should bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors. They also recommended having guests bring their own food and drink and, if sharing food, having one person serve food and using single-use options such as plastic utensils.

“Everyone can make Thanksgiving safer by wearing a mask and staying at least 6 feet from others who do not live with you,” the CDC said. 

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