By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY – For the past 21 years, Cookies Thanksgiving, a program of Other Options, Inc., has partnered with hundreds of volunteers to prepare and deliver complete Thanksgiving meals to Oklahomans living with HIV and AIDS.
“As you know, 2020 has been a unique and challenging year,” stated Mary Arbuckle, Executive Director of Other Options, Inc. on Facebook. “In order to follow safety guidelines for our immune compromised clients, we will be giving them holiday boxes complete with unprepared meal kits to make their own Thanksgiving meals.”
The dinner boxes will include all the fixings and trimmings including cooked turkey and ham, according to Arbuckle.
“We are working with our longtime chefs and food industry professionals who have graced us over the years to create recipes to go into each box. We want to thank all those who have participated over the years and helped with this program,” she said.
“Do not despair, next year we hope to bring back our normal cooking in our kitchens and packaging up food to be delivered on Thanksgiving Day as we have done for so many years,” Mary added. “We appreciate everyone’s understanding as we do our best to keep not only our clients, but our volunteers healthy and safe.”
Mary’s mother, Cookie Arbuckle, founded Other Options and Friends Food Pantry in 1988, which is the only free food source in the 405 and 580 area codes for the HIV population in Oklahoma.
As the primary program at Other Options, the Friends Food Pantry provides nutrient dense food, nutrition formula, and toiletries to over 1,064 adults and children weekly.
The Other Options’ Home Delivery Program provides items to individuals who are 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.
Each year, Cookie’s Thanksgiving feeds 1000 in-need individuals on Thanksgiving Day through at-home deliveries and in-house meals.
Arbuckle says the Cookies Thanksgiving Dinner is not exclusively for their clients, but also for their dedicated volunteers.
“This year we are asking in lieu of preparing and delivering meals, to please donate to Cookies Thanksgiving,” Mary said. “A simple donation of $20 to $50 or even $10 can go a long way in providing food and happiness to these families in need this holiday season. It costs Other Options roughly $7.56 per Thanksgiving meal – including leftovers.”
Other Options will be accepting donated canned food items such as green beans, corn, broth, and cranberry sauce.
To make a donation to Cookies Thanksgiving, visit otheroptionsokc.org or mail checks to 3636 NW 51st St, Oklahoma City, OK 73112. To coordinate delivery or to fill one of the limited volunteer opportunities, call 405-605-8020.
“Again, let me personally thank you and those who have donated and contributed their time over the years,” Mary said. “Cookies Thanksgiving has always been a very special event and long tradition that helps so many of an often forgotten yet very deserving population have a special holiday meal. I appreciate your support and understanding during this unique and challenging time.”
For more information, visit otheroptionsokc.org
Note: Statements used for this story were originally posted on the Other Options Inc., Friends Food Pantry Facebook page on September 16 by Mary Arbuckle, Executive Director of Other Options, Inc.