As we sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner with our families in 2020, experiencing a spirit of gratitude that we’ve made it this far through a challenging year, it’s more important than ever to think of those who could use a helping hand. Cherry Street Missions, as always, is a place that provides that help and calls on volunteers to do the same. Thanksgiving Day won’t be the same for any of us during the pandemic, and the nonprofit organization that helps people without housing is no exception.
Cherry Street Missions will still offer meals throughout Thanksgiving, but meals at their Mac Street Cafe will not be open to the public. They will only be serving the guests staying at their facility this year as a precautionary measure during COVID.
“The governor and the CDC continue to advise that places like Cherry Street, which is considered congregate housing, should not be open to the public and should not allow outside people coming and going at will,” says Nikki Morey, Vice President of Development for the organization. “So we continue to keep safety at the forefront of our minds as we’re making these really tough decisions. We’re doing it knowing that we are already serving the most vulnerable people in our society, and we serve an awful lot of medically fragile people.”
All guests at Cherry Street must test negative for COVID-19 before being able to engage in the organization’s community activities, which will include breakfast at Mac Street Cafe (1501 Monroe St.) from 7 to 8:30am, lunch provided by The Real Seafood Company from 11:30am to 3pm, and dinner at Mac Street Cafe from 5 to 6:30pm. Cherry Street is seeking volunteers to help with not only these meals, but other activities throughout the weekend. A volunteer orientation is required.
“This allows you to ask questions, understand how we’re protecting everybody’s safety, and how we are protecting the safety of our guests from germs from the outside,” says Morey. “But it also teaches us what it’s like to be experiencing homelessness and how we’re helping the whole person.”
Thanksgiving weekend at Cherry Street is not just about the meals, but also the sense of community— watching football, playing games, listening to music and spending quality time together. Morey says volunteers who want to give back by playing music or some other form of entertainment are welcome as well.
“Thanksgiving’s entire focus is about family and, if you can’t be with your blood family, then there are opportunities for a lot of people to be with their friends,” Morey says. “If you are experiencing homelessness, you don’t have those opportunities. Cherry Street steps in and fills that gap temporarily to act as a family. And we’re always going to celebrate around food, and we’re always going to be grateful about what we have while recognizing that food scarcity is a reality in our America.”
Contact the volunteer team at [email protected] to learn more about orientation dates, or help out with the Thanksgiving meals by donating canned goods and other nonperishables, plus frozen turkeys and hams to 1501 Monroe Street. Email [email protected] for more details.
Cherry Street is also in need of outerwear donations like coats, work gloves, and sturdy boots. Check out their donation wish list here. All donations can be brought by the Mission every Monday through Friday from 10am to 2pm.