The Hunger Games event, a joint effort from entities all around Delaware County, is back in full force this year as the community comes together to ensure everyone has a meal to eat on Thanksgiving. On Tuesday, Nov. 24, meal kits will be handed out to any and all in the community at two separate locations from 10:45 a.m. to noon.
Kits will include a turkey, with a roasting pan, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, rolls, pies and fruit. They can be picked up at the former DACC North building, located at 1610 state Route 521 in Delaware or at the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which is located at 7991 Columbus Pike in Lewis Center.
Flu shots will also be available from the Delaware Public Health District and can be registered for by visiting https://forms.delawarehealth.org/Forms/FluDriveDACCNorth and entering the code “flu2020!”
Those picking up a kit are asked to wear masks and to have space cleared in the back seat or trunk to make room for the kit.
Karen Wadkins, the Delaware County Juvenile and Probate Court fiscal coordinator, said the event began in 2015 as a “small idea” of putting together some Thanksgiving meals for people in need. The juvenile court and Hayes High School partnered together that year to produce 50 meals. For Hayes, the bigger goal was to “pack the Pacer Pantry,” she said. The Pacer Pantry, located in the Willis Education Center, is open to all in the community, no questions asked.
“It has grown exponentially since then,” Wadkins said of the expectations for this year’s event. “As of last year, we started to engage with the schools here in Delaware, as well as the other county agencies, to try to support 200 meals out of just the juvenile court, the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DCBDD), and Hayes High School. And we couldn’t support it anymore, so we reached out to the rest of our community.”
Wadkins said that beginning last year, a single item was assigned to each agency or school wishing to participate. The result was tremendous, she said, including a 1,000-can donation of green beans from a single elementary school.
Following the same format this year, Wadkins said the goal for the program was to hand out 250 meals. But because of additional donations and the collective response of the community in general, she said the program is looking at handing out as many as 320 Thanksgiving meals this season thanks to as many as 17 county agencies that are participating in the program this year, as well as local schools and several more community partners.
“It’s been amazing,” Wadkins said of the community’s support. “There really isn’t another word that I can think of than amazing, and the community here in Delaware, we’ve just rallied. Yeah, 2020 is hard, but we’re just here for each other and it really shows with this event.”
“It’s been an incredible thing for us to be a part of,” Anne Flanery, the press relations and community education manager at DCBDD, said. “It’s just really an opportunity to give back to a community that has given so much to us and the people we serve. It’s something little we can do in the middle of this pandemic that sheds a little bit of light on, maybe, a dark time for someone.”
Delaware County Juvenile Court Administrator Katie Stenman said that in the past with the event, it has felt like they have had to hustle to reach out to people to assist in the event. This year, however, she feels like the county has hustled to them.
“The generosity, despite the state of 2020, has been amazing,” Stenman said. “Donations have come out of the woodwork from community partners that I didn’t even know existed or didn’t think would have an interest in this type of event … People have heard what we’re doing and decided they wanted to be a part of it, and that’s just been amazing this year in a way that, not that it wasn’t before, but it’s just been over the top.”
Wadkins added, “It’s not about one agency doing something good, it’s about the community coming together and providing for the community. I’ve lived in Delaware now for seven years and it has that small-town feel at times, especially when you have something like this where you tell me you’re hungry and I’ll tell you where you can get a meal.
“It’s such a great turnout and an overwhelming feeling after it’s all done. Last year, my little heart just burst to see all of those people show up. It really meant a lot to see us all rally around each other, and I think that’s especially important this year.”
2020 marks the first year the Hunger Games event will have served the kits from two separate distribution centers. Wadkins said that was done to “get the meals further spread out” in the county. If someone can’t make the event, she said meals will be delivered to front porches or wherever is needed.
“The goal is I don’t want to wake up on Wednesday and wonder what I am going to do with these turkeys in my freezer,” Wadkins added. “Our goal is to get rid of all of them by Tuesday at noon.”
To arrange for the delivery of a kit, or if there are any further questions on the event, contact Hayes High School at 740-833-1010.