Staff members at Ypsilanti's Hope Clinic knew they had to adapt their holiday traditions to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, so they've created carryout Thanksgiving baskets and are working on changes to their Christmas programs as well.
"We're pretty excited to be able to help bring a little bit of gratitude during this season when so many people are struggling," says Billy Kangas, director of community engagement for Hope Clinic.
In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, staff and volunteers were busy stuffing paper bags with Thanksgiving staples like cranberries, stuffing, and potatoes, and arranging for turkeys to be picked up. Kangas expects about 500 families to be served by the new project.
"In the past, we would not have had a Thanksgiving program because there were lots of other meals available in the community, but many of them are not happening this year," he says. "Our amazing volunteers are making sure no one in our community has to skip Thanksgiving due to losing a job or not having a budget for food."
The project was made possible through a number of partnerships, including with Costco, which provided the turkeys at a reduced cost. St. Michael Lutheran Church of Canton is distributing Thanksgiving baskets in the Wayne-Westland area, while Arbor Bridge Church is helping with distribution in the Ann Arbor area.
Most who signed up for the Thanksgiving packages are coming to one of the churches or to Hope Clinic to pick up baskets, but a handful who have already been receiving grocery deliveries through the clinic will receive baskets delivered right to their doors.
Hope Clinic has also updated its Christmas programming this year. In the past, an individual or family could sponsor a family and buy something for each family member off a Christmas list. Hope Clinic would also sponsor a Christmas store in the facility's basement where people could come out and pick out donated gifts.
This year, the program will provide $25 gift cards to as many as 1,100 people. Community members can donate cash toward a gift card fund or drop off $25 gift cards from places like Meijer, Target, or Kroger directly to Hope Clinic so families can shop for their own presents.
Kangas says he hopes this will be "more simple and streamlined for everyone, but still make the season cheerful for kids and families."
Additionally, Hope Clinic has launched an Advent reflection series, with inspirational messages sent by email.
"One of the things that sets Hope Clinic apart is its identity as a Christian organization, so we reached out to a number of our church partners to help us create an Advent Action Guide," Kangas says. "People can sign up to get a message of hope delivered to their inbox each day during the season of Advent."
Kangas notes that the program is called an Advent Action Guide because the email will include questions to reflect upon and creative ideas to make the Advent season meaningful.
"Our hope is that this holiday season will be not just a time to focus on consumerism but to remind us of ways we can engage with one another and the community and with our spiritual life," he says. "It's a challenging season, but a really rewarding one."
More information about Hope Clinic's Christmas offerings is available here.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Hope Clinic.