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Thanksgiving Blessing Helping A Record Number of Families

By Corey Allen-Young, Education Reporter, cyoung@ktuu.com
Published On: Nov 25 2013 09:35:21 PM AKST

(KTUU-TV, 11-25-13)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

Thanksgiving marks a time year when families get together for a feast, but it can be a struggle for some homes and that’s where the Food Bank of Alaska and several other churches and volunteers step in.

On Monday, the annual Thanksgiving Blessing was spread out in seven locations in the Anchorage area. Organizers and volunteers were out in full force and determined to make sure every family in need has some holiday food.

More than 8,500 families came to get turkeys along with sides, compared to last year's total of around 7,400.

Families struggling to pay rent and buy food year-round can’t afford the extra costs when the holiday season arrives, according to social service organizations.

Jurlean Twillie is one of those families. She says she works along with her son but with not much work, they are struggling to get by.

"He works and I work and it's still hard to make ends meet," said Twillie.

Volunteers say they are seeing more of the working poor that Thanksgiving Blessing locations in midtown and in South Anchorage.

At Central Lutheran Church in downtown, 1,350 families showed up. At Crosspoint Church located off of Dimond, crews prepared for 1,900 families that stretched all the way out to Girdwood. 

"Even at a job where you are making $15 an hour, if you live in an apartment that's a two bedroom that's like $1,100 average for rent," said Grace O'Neal, who is the program manager for Lutheran Social Services of Alaska. “You’re going to have a hard time with a family of four supporting yourselves."

Officials say with more calls coming in for rental and utility assistance, what's happening is not an isolated problem.

"There's a whole bunch of folks who have jobs that are really working one, two, three, four jobs or more trying to make ends meet, so this is a real issue," said Pastor Dave Kuiper, of Crosspoint Church. "We just can't keep telling people to do better and get smarter and do better on their own, we have to figure out how to help as a community."