Thanksgiving 2020 in the United States: an extraordinary celebration

This year, the American association Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, member of the Petits Frères des Pauvres International Federation, had to adapt to celebrate Thanksgiving.

A bit of history

Thanksgiving is a holiday that is celebrated in the United States in thanksgiving for the good harvests obtained by the first arrivals in 1621. These good harvests followed a harsh winter where the Native Americans taught the immigrants to farm, fish and hunt. To celebrate the bountiful harvests, the immigrants invited the Amerindians to a banquet and the Amerindians brought wild turkeys, an animal unknown in Europe at that time.
On October 3, 1789, after the War of Independence in the United States, George Washington officialized the celebration of Thanksgiving Day. It was Abraham Lincoln (in 1863) who fixed it on the 4th Thursday of November.

An today

It is the occasion for a hearty meal with the family. Turkey is on the traditional menu (more than 40 million turkeys are eaten that day). For dessert, pumpkin cake is a must because the first arrivals would have been saved during the winter by eating pumpkins.
Americans are very fond of this feast. It is an opportunity for families scattered all over the country to get together for a few days. And because it is a Thanksgiving day, many Americans distribute meals to the needy at this time of the year. Charities are very active in helping the needy for this holiday.

With the covid crisis, LBFE organized Thanksgiving with health measures in mind

In Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Houghton, Minneapolis, New York and San Francisco, the Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly (LBFE) associations have adapted in order to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving in spite of the restrictions linked to the covid-19 crisis, because isolated elderly people feel even more alone on this day.

In Chicago, almost 800 meals to be delivered, in partnership with Fight2Feed: « Our biggest Thanksgiving ever!  This year has been unlike any other. But with the help of our community, we’ve stayed focused on surrounding Chicago seniors aging alone with friendship and support. And though we can’t gather together this holiday season, elders across Chicago will still celebrate with a homemade meal and powerful reminders they’re loved and cared for – thanks to our volunteers! ».

In Upper Michigan, the organization had 9 sites in 5 counties where volunteers and staff prepared and delivered over 1030 meals. Cathy Kass-Aten, executive director explains: “We worked closely with the health departement and had a comprehensive safety plan in place. We had 1-2 safety monitors at each site who were responsible for doing the screening of all volunteers. All volunteers were informed in advance of our safety guidelines and were then screened on site by having their temperature taken and asked specific questions. Drivers did not get out of their cars, we brought the meals to them once they passed the screening. 4 sites actually turned away drivers who did not pass the screening, which is a good sign that our plan was followed. We gave safety kits to all drivers. All volunteers in the kitchens wore face masks and face shields over their masks”.

“All elders knew they were getting a meal between 12-2 and had to confirm with the driver they were there and could get the meal. Drivers were instructed to knock and identify themselves, put meal down and back away if the elder opened the door. The turnout for drivers was great and everyone was on board with our safety procedures”.

Cathy Kass-Aten concludes “I am so proud of our staff and our volunteers!  people really want to do something good! The feedback from volunteers was very positive and heartwarming. We are now already gearing up for Christmas day!”.

On the photo bellow, it is the Hancock site, volunteers waiting to receive the meals to be delivered.

Photo credit: Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly – Houghton Chapter

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