By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City’s Friends Food Pantry is preparing for their 15th Annual Thanksgiving Day home delivery of holiday meals to individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS, organizers said.
A crew of dedicated volunteers will help to provide the free dinners throughout the Oklahoma City metro area and Norman.
This year meal preparations will again take place at the Earth Elements Entrepreneur’s Kitchen, 1235 S.W. 2, located just south of Farmers Public Market in Oklahoma City.
Mary Arbuckle, Executive Director of Other Options said, “Tuesday and Wednesday, Thanksgiving week, we do the prep and cooking. On Thursday we package and box all the meals to be delivered.”
Prep will start on Tuesday from 4 – 8 p.m. Wednesday hours are 4 – 8 p.m., and Thursday from 7 – 11 a.m.
On Thanksgiving Day those who want to help box meals should plan on arriving by 7 a.m. Volunteers who will be making deliveries should be at Earth Elements by 8:30 a.m.
Arbuckle said, “In 2013 we made 210 stops and fed over 750 people for Thanksgiving and in 2014 we are going for the same goal.”
Approximately 100 volunteers are expected to help with the holiday project.
The Friends Food Pantry Thanksgiving Delivery is a tradition started by Oklahoma City activist, Scotty Irani. Robert Painter, owner of the Iguana Mexican Grill, in downtown Oklahoma City’s Automobile Alley district, now spearheads the event.
“Thanksgiving is right around the corner,” said Painter. “We expect to help over 700 people again this year and we are really going to need assistance. The families of Other Options Friends and Food Pantry sincerely thank everyone who helps out.”
The majority of the Friends Food Pantry items are purchased with grant funds at a bulk rate from the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank. Other Options also relies on businesses, churches, and private individuals to donate additional food items that are not obtained from the Food Bank.
Dessert caterer Doc Bartley said, “Since the 26th is my birthday and I bake for Children’s Cancer fund, I am planning to help out Other Options all three days.”
Bartley plans to create the 750 desserts needed, which will include cupcakes, cookies, fudge, pie and brittle.
“I plan to bring some for the workers to celebrate my birthday as well.”
Bartley added, “We are asking for donations of milk, sugar, butter, flour, and spices. Monetary donations for desserts can be made to Other Options on my behalf or to the general fund.”
“We need large cans of green beans and corn, 750 pounds of potatoes, 750 pounds of sweet potatoes, large bags or boxes of dressing mix and of course, a whole lot of turkeys.”
Arbuckle said, “If you have a large plastic folding table we can borrow for the holidays, please drop it by Other Options.”
The Friends Food Pantry is the only free food source in the 405 and 580 area codes for the HIV population in Oklahoma.
The Friends Food Pantry is the primary program at Other Options. It provides nutrient dense food, nutrition formula, and toiletries to over 1,064 adults and children weekly.
Other Options’ Home Delivery Program provides deliveries to those individuals unable to shop at the Friends Food Pantry because their illness keeps them homebound.
The organization also participates in the HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS) Program, which was created by HUD to address the needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
Other Options also provides prevention education to the metro community.
This year’s Thanksgiving Delivery is expected to cost approximately $4,000. Donations can be made at otheroptionsokc.org. Click the donate button and enter “Thanksgiving” in the comment area. Checks can also be mailed to 3636 N.W. 51 St., Oklahoma City, OK 73112.
To volunteer for the Thanksgiving Dinner Delivery call 405-605-8020 or for more information visit facebook.com/OtherOptions.