In the 12 years that Craig Shniderman has worked as the Executive Director of Food & Friends, an organization that prepares, packages and delivers food to more than 1,000 residents of metropolitan Washington who are living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other illnesses, all of the its clients have been fed on Thanksgiving.
''No one misses a meal,'' Shniderman says. There have been three late meals -- volunteers driving in unfamiliar areas -- but even those reached their destination.
It's a reputation Shniderman hopes to keep. The organization is looking for about 100 additional volunteers who can help deliver food on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23.
''Thanksgiving is our largest single volunteer event of the year,'' Shniderman says. ''We think of the holiday as Thanksgiving week because the preparations for the holiday go on [that long].''
The volunteer-based organization is also scheduled to honor some of its donors during its ''Major Donor Celebrity Chef Dinner,'' on Tuesday, Nov. 14, before focusing all of its resources on Thanksgiving. In addition to the many donors, Food & Friends operates with the help of 3,500 volunteers throughout the year. Shniderman says 625 of those volunteers help out the week leading up to Thanksgiving.
Communications Director Lisa Butenhall says the organization has enough kitchen volunteers who plan to prepare enough food for about 700 deliveries, but there is still a need for more people to help with the deliveries.
On the Monday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving, volunteers will deliver apple pies, pumpkin pies and ''Turkey Boxes,'' for those clients who live the furthest away from the Food & Friends kitchen. On Thanksgiving Day, volunteers will help deliver food, assemble food and also work as ''Thanksgiving Pilgrims,'' by greeting kitchen and delivery volunteers, helping load delivery bags into vans and assisting with traffic control.
Shniderman says each client will receive enough food to serve six people, per request.
''For many people who are sick and often alone, Thanksgiving is a very difficult time,'' he says. ''It's very rare that our clients can be the 'head of the table' so to speak, because usually our clients are dependant on the generosity of others.''
Volunteers change that dynamic, he says.
''[O]n Thanksgiving Day, because of our volunteers, the clients can be the hosts the givers of generosity. That means a lot to people who are in difficult circumstances.''
For more information on volunteering for Food and Friends visit www.foodandfriends.org.