Catholic Charities partners with other groups to provide Thanksgiving meals

DORCHESTER -- Beth Chambers, vice president of basic needs at Catholic Charities Boston, considers it a Thanksgiving miracle.

For 24 years, Catholic Charities has partnered with United Way of Mass. Bay to distribute free Thanksgiving meals to those in need throughout the Archdiocese of Boston. It seemed as though they wouldn't have enough turkeys for everybody -- until they received a call from the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The society had purchased 1,400 more turkeys than it needed, and it was wondering if Catholic Charities had any use for them.

"We are providing folks with the opportunity to have the same Thanksgiving that you and I are going to have," Chambers said.

On Nov. 18, volunteers braved the rain to give out 1,000 turkeys at the Catholic Charities Yawkey Center in Dorchester. Families, mostly from Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, registered in advance to receive a turkey, rice, beans, fresh produce, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, and a pie.

Chambers said that the Thanksgiving giveaway is more important than ever. She has noticed that the number of people visiting the Catholic Charities food pantry is rising, along with the cost of food and utility bills.

"We've seen days within this pantry that we are serving almost 500 people," she said.

The Greater Boston Food Bank and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also helped provide the food, which was packed by Boston College student-athletes.

"I've done it the last couple years, and it's so fun and gratifying to see these families get what they need for the holiday season," said Genevieve Rhodes, a senior at Boston College and a member of the school's Liturgy Arts Group. "Jesus's ministry was to serve others, and I think we need to emulate that."

"One of our pillars is service," said Boston College senior and Liturgy Arts Group member Tanner Salmonson, "and that's a big part of the Catholic faith and tradition. It's something great we can do for the community, as privileged as we are."

Also on Nov. 18, Catholic Charities Merrimack Valley gave out Thanksgiving meals in Lowell. On Nov. 20, meals were distributed at the Catholic Charities Laboure Center in South Boston, the Catholic Charities food pantry in Lynn, and Catholic Charities South in Brockton.