Families all over the Valley will join together to feast on Thursday, but Levill Liggens will be working in Tempe. His job on Thanksgiving will involve serving dinner to homeless people who have nowhere to go.
Liggens knows what that’s like. The Chicago native said he has spent more than half of his life on the streets.
He came to the Valley about a year ago and found refuge with Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program in Tempe, where he now works.
“I spend my holidays helping out those who are less fortunate because I was there myself once,” he said.
Liggens will not be the only one reaching out to the less fortunate on Thursday.
Churches, shelters and food banks across the Valley are working to provide meals for those families who cannot do so themselves.
They are collecting donations — everything from coupons or money to turkeys, rolls, canned food, cranberry sauce, potatoes and all the traditional food items.
“Now that the snowbirds are coming down, we are getting more donations,” said Jody Johnson, supervisor for the Apache Junction Reach Out Food Bank. “But we can’t depend on them alone to serve everybody.”
Many programs in the past have not had much trouble gathering enough donations to feed the needy, but rising demand and waning donations have made charity organizations this holiday season desperate for help.
“We never had to turn people away without a turkey in the past,” said Frances Encinas, secretary for Paz de Christo Community Center. “But so far, we maybe have one-third of the turkeys we will be needing.”
Paz de Christo serves about 250 people nightly, seven days a week, and about 800 families every Thanksgiving. But this year, they have only received about 300 turkeys.
Larger organizations have sponsored mass turkey drives to aid the effort. KTVK-TV (Channel 3) News and the Salvation Army co-hosted one such event Thursday on Van Buren Street in Phoenix.
“We hope to receive near 2,000 (turkeys) by the end of the day,” project director Beth Marvin said late that afternoon. “Right now, we are close to 1,000.”
Last year, a similar drive generated more than 2,200 turkeys to distribute across the Valley.
While shelters and churches are striving to provide food boxes for families this Thanksgiving, it is much more difficult to get help the other 364 days of the year.
Stephen Young, 51, said that while it is difficult for singles living on the street, it is even harder for families.
“Most (shelters) are just not equipped to handle children,” he said as he gathered around others like himself outside a Salvation Army shelter.
Young said he moved to Tempe after being assaulted twice in Phoenix.
He said this Thanksgiving he will give thanks for his health.
Many shelters, food banks and churches are seeking cash or food donations during the holiday season. Here is a partial list:
• Apache Junction Reach Out Food Bank, 575 N. Idaho Road, Suite 701, (480) 983-2995
• East Mesa Baptist Church, 752 S. Ellsworth Road, (480) 986-9827
• East Valley Men’s Center, 2345 N. Country Club Drive, (480) 610-6722
• Paz de Christo Community Center, 424 W. Broadway Road, (480) 464-2370
• United Food Bank, 358 E. Javelina Ave., (480) 926-4897
• Paradise Valley Emergency Food Bank, 10862 N. 32nd St., (602) 867-9228
• Vista del Camino, 7375 E Second St., (480) 312-2323
• Via Linda Senior Center, 10440 N. Via Linda, (480) 312-5810
• Pima North Neighborhood Customer Service Office, 8787 E. Hualapai Drive, (480) 312-6280
• Temple Beth Israel, 10460 N. 56th St., (480) 951-0323
• Grace Community Church, 1200 E. Southern Ave., (602) 346-3330
• Tempe Vineyard, 1835 S. Elliot Road, (602) 346-3330
• Tempe Community Action Agency, 2150 E. Orange St., (480) 350-5882
• Bethany Community Church, 6240 E. Price Road, (602) 346-3330
• Donations may be made at any Salvation Army location or Fry’s grocery store