A day to say thanks for giving - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

A day to say thanks for giving

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Posted: Thursday, November 24, 2005 5:27 am | Updated: 9:29 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

I don’t know what Wednesday was like at your house. But if preparing a Thanksgiving meal was part of your duties, then I’m guessing there was an air of happy chaos about it. Cooking, cleaning, running to the grocery to buy the cranberry sauce that you’ll forget to put on the table today. That sort of thing.

Well, Wednesday was pretty much business as usual at Paz de Cristo Community Center in Mesa, which is to say Jean McColguin and Nancy Speck were busy in the kitchen, Bo Barker was tidying up the pantry and Michele Ross was answering phone calls.

Today, Paz de Cristo will serve a traditional Thanksgiving meal to about 250 people, most of them low-income, many of them homeless.

The prospects of such an undertaking might frazzle the nerves of some folks. But not the volunteers at Paz de Cristo. They are accustomed to it.

The fact is, poor folks aren’t hungry on just Thanksgiving Day or Christmas, which probably explains the calm efficiency of the Paz de Cristo volunteers. They feed people 365 days a year.

On Wednesday afternoon, McColguin and Speck were wrist-deep in bread crumbs. They were preparing 20 pans of dressing for the Thanksgiving meal. Twenty turkeys had been cooked and carved.

And they are doing all this while also preparing Wednesday’s meal service. On Tuesday, the volunteers put together and distributed 800 food baskets.

On Monday, Ross — the center’s volunteer coordinator — calculated that they were 1,000 turkeys short of their goal. The word went out. And the turkeys started pouring in.

"Two ladies came in and said they had two trucks in the parking lot, each with 100 turkeys,’’ McColguin said. "It was like that all day long.’’

So Wednesday, by contrast, was a breeze. The storm has passed.

Paz de Cristo is referred to as a interfaith nonprofit organization, which is a bit of a misnomer. Churches contribute, certainly, but the center’s efforts also are aided by all sorts of businesses, organizations and community-minded private citizens.

It is easy to be cynical about our society, easy to believe that we have lost our generous spirit, that we have become a self-absorbed civilization.

And then we realize that there places like Paz de Cristo, where ordinary folks perform extraordinary acts of generosity on days not printed in red on the calendar.

Because today is Thanksgiving Day, you can bet that you will see an image of some millionaire athlete handing out a turkey before TV cameras.

But a much better representation of the true spirit of our community’s generosity is embodied by an 81-year old lady named Jean McColguin wrist-deep in bread crumbs.

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