Food for thought

Published 12:40 am Tuesday, December 20, 2011

WCCC holds annual food giveaway

Thornton Gorham, president and founder of Washington Community Care Coalition, adds a frozen turkey to a box to give away to the less fortunate, while Coley Moore (background) studies another box’s offerings. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

One hundred and two cardboard boxes, piled high with food, awaited pickup at the Washington Housing Authority building on West Ninth Street on Saturday. At 10 a.m., the boxes began to disappear, handed out by Washington Community Care Coalition volunteers to those on their list. By 12:30 p.m., only 26 boxes remained.

Throughout the year, members of the coalition supply frozen dinners to Meals on Wheels, fruit baskets for the elderly and those in nursing homes, but it’s the holiday season in which they step up effort, giving away the fixings for Christmas dinner, including the turkey, to the less fortunate. They make sure people are fed.

Thornton Gorham started the Washington Community Care Coalition 29 years ago because he wanted to return the favor the community had done him.

“I was running an auto repair shop, and there were people in the community that kept me going,” said Gorham. “When you run a business, if the people didn’t come to you, you wouldn’t have a business. I wanted to return something to the community.”

Gorham organizes fundraisers year-round to support WCCC’s Christmas food giveaway, holding fish fries, gospel programs, banquets. They ask businesses and churches to help out with donations, with either money or food drives. The addition of volunteers from the district attorney’s office, the Washington Police Department, and area doctors’ offices to help pack boxes with food and hand them out make for a true community effort, he said.

In previous years, the coalition advertised this holiday service, resulting in lines of people a block long on the day of the giveaway. Gorham took a different tack this year, reaching out to community leaders to identify the truly needy in the area and making a list of recipients.

“A lot (of people) turned out this year that didn’t have their name on the list. They just heard about it from someone else,” said Gorham. “We had to turn them back until we got the people with their names on the list.”

Some of the names on the coalition’s list represent one individual; some represent families of eight or nine people. Though families have returned from one year to the next, Gorham has hope that the following Christmas will see this year’s recipients in a better place financially.

“The people that do it this year,” Gorham explained, “I’m hoping they’ll stand on their own next year and help others out.”