By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City’s Friends Food Pantry is preparing for their 13th Annual Thanksgiving Day home delivery of holiday meals to their HIV/AIDS clients.
A crew of dedicated volunteers will once again help to provide the free Thanksgiving dinners to individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS every year.
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. This year we’ll probably do over 200 stops, which will be meals for around 700 people.”
This year Arbuckle says she expects around a hundred volunteers to help with the 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.
This year preparations will again be done at the Earth Elements Entrepreneur’s Kitchen, 1235 SW 2, located just south of Farmers Public Market in Oklahoma City. Prep will start on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
“Thanksgiving is right around the corner,” said Painter. “We expect to help over 700 people this year and we are really going to need assistance.”
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.
Those wanting to donate food can find a list of items needed at www.otheroptionsokc.org/thanksgiving-2013.
“The families of Other Options Friends and Food Pantry sincerely thank you,” Painter added.
Cindy and Eddie have been regular clients of the Food Pantry since they were both diagnosed with AIDS in 2010.
“Other Options has really helped us a lot with food and when we moved they helped us get some furniture,” Cindy said. “They’ve always been there even if I just needed someone to talk to.”
On Thanksgiving day, start time will be at 8:30 a.m. for those that want to help with food prep. Volunteers that will be making deliveries only should arrive by 9:30 a.m. at Earth Elements.
Food pantry supporter 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 on creating 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 said.
Volunteers take two days to prepare for the big holiday home delivery on Thanksgiving morning. Deliveries are made throughout the Oklahoma City metro area including Norman.
“We will be filling bags and getting them ready for Thanksgiving Day,” Arbuckle said. “Hopefully with everyone’s help we should start home deliveries by 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning.”
In the early 1980s, founding board members of Other Options working in the health care community recognized the need to educate and inform individuals affected by HIV and AIDS.
The Friends Food Pantry at Other Options is the only free food source in the 405 and 580 area codes for the HIV population in Oklahoma.
The delivery project is expected to cost approximately $4,000. Donations can be made to help by visiting otheroptionsokc.org and clicking the donate button. Enter “Thanksgiving” in the comment area. Donations can also be mailed to 3636 NW 51st St, Oklahoma City, OK 73112.
For more information, call 405-605-8020 or visit www.facebook.com/OtherOptions.