SALT LAKE CITY — Thanksgiving with family will look different this year, but what about the usual large-scale volunteer events? The ones where normally hundreds to thousands of families gather in one place to give and receive a holiday meal?
Some of the organizations that normally host those events explain they had to overcome challenges and think creatively to continue their giveaways during COVID-19.
For some, gathering with hundreds of people is a Thanksgiving tradition.
Obviously, with a global pandemic, that style of Turkey Day outreach is a no-go — even if it's as crucial as ever.
"We certainly have people in need of food assistance — in some cases, for the very first time," said Glenn Bailey, executive director at the Crossroads Urban Center.
On any other given year, he explained that Crossroads Urban Center teams up with Harmon's to pass out turkeys at the Urban Indian Center the day before Thanksgiving.
Their challenge this year: Figuring out how to safely give out a turkey and set of three sides to 3,200 families.
"It's the balance between keeping people safe and continuing to feed people," Bailey said. "That's our mission. So, that's what we want to do."
Volunteers at The Salvation Army always line up to box up more than 800 meals that the volunteers then deliver to individual homes across the Salt Lake Valley.
Captain of the Salvation Army Salt Lake City Rob Lawler explained that they are making the switch to a drive-through style meal delivery pickup.
"Volunteers will be driving up in their cars, and then we will have runners who will go through the building with the requested amount," he explained.
A runner will put meals in the volunteer's car, and the volunteer will drive off to make deliveries. Drivers will leave the meals on the person's porch, he indicated, to avoid contact with recipients.
The challenge for them has been in finding enough drivers to deliver during the pandemic.
"Out of the 90-something volunteers that we need that are drivers, we are at about 65 or something like that," Lawler said.
He said they are following COVID-19 safety protocols, and they hope more people sign up to volunteer by Thursday. In addition to drivers, he described how they need people to direct traffic and serve as runners.
Crossroads Urban Center decided on a first-come, first-served contactless drive-through food handout at the Smith's Ballpark parking lot.
Bailey talked about how they did have to scale back a little bit, but they'll still be able to serve more than 3,000 families safely.
"I'm glad that we're able to do that and that people are able to participate as volunteers and as recipients" he said, adding, "Just happy that this is something that can go on safely and doesn't need to be canceled."
The Crossroads Urban Center's food giveaway is open to anyone and takes place on Wednesday, November 25 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the north side of 1300 South adjacent to the Smith's Ballpark at 77 West 1300 South.
Families will receive one turkey and a set of three sides per vehicle, and food will be loaded directly into the trunk with no contact.
The Salvation Army delivers a full Thanksgiving meal to a pre-set list of more than 800 recipients. Click here to sign up to volunteer to deliver meals.