One of DC’s oldest nonprofits gives out Thanksgiving turkeys

One of D.C.’s oldest nonprofits has spent the past two weeks making sure families in need can have a Thanksgiving turkey.

Central Union Mission gave out about 700 frozen turkeys from its distribution center off Bladensburg Road during its annual Feast of Sharing.

On Tuesday alone, nearly 200 families came out and lined up around the distribution center, some waiting close to an hour to get turkey, bread and other Thanksgiving essentials.

“Folks come; they register and they get a mask if they don’t have one. They will come and get a shopping cart full of food including the turkey,” said Central Union Mission president and CEO Joseph Mettimano.

He told WTOP that there are usually financial background checks for the giveaways, to make sure that recipients are below the poverty line and in desperate need. This year, they have changed it up.

“With everything happening in the world right now, especially [COVID-19], we are not doing that,” he said. “Anybody who comes here and seeks assistance, we are going to make sure that they are taken care of. When they come, we are here to greet them and make sure they leave here with food.”

None of this year’s Feast of Sharing would have been possible without a local grocery store.

“Part of the food we are giving today is through a very generous partnership with Safeway,” Mettimano said.

The supermarket chain granted a total of nearly $48,000 to the Central Union Mission this year, and topped that with 500 meal boxes distributed along with the turkeys.

The Feast of Sharing meal boxes contained a turkey sandwich among other snacks. Gift bags also came with winter gloves and personal protective equipment.

“Many folks are wondering where their next meal is coming from, and I think they are just pleasantly surprised by the fact that we are going the extra mile and making sure that they are able to celebrate the holiday despite the chaos that is happening around them,” Mettimano said.

Earlier in the day, they also offered a prayer station and ran a flu vaccine clinic for anyone who wished to get the shot.

Central Union Mission is faith-based and claims to be the oldest nonprofit in the District, having been open for 137 years. It focuses primarily on fighting homelessness and hunger in the D.C. area.

“We are serving about 5,000 people per month. That number has gone up significantly because of [COVID-19] and all the people that have been laid off. They are coming to us for food assistance,” Mettimano said.

They are open at their food distribution center four days a week.

“I didn’t have any food in my house, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving,” one woman told WTOP as she waited in line. “They are very helpful, and I thank God that they are here.”

While volunteering with the mission has become complicated during the pandemic, they still accept monetary donations.

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Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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