Students and parents unload the more than 1,000 items collected by the Elementary Student Council. The donations stocked Thanksgiving baskets and the food cupboard run by the park’s churches
According to Rev. Edward Purkey, pastor of the Grand Canyon Community Church, the Thanksgiving basket program is an extension of the year-round assistance provided by the food cupboard and Community Assistance Fund, which is administered by local churches.
While not connected with the committee that overseess the annual Christmas basket program administered by the Grand Canyon Salvation Army, the organizers of both efforts cooperate and in most cases, recipients get assistance for both holidays.
Purkey said when they assemble Thanksgiving baskets, they hope to provide enough food to last until Christmas assistance arrives.
“The food we give is intended to go beyond Thanksgiving,” he said. “We try to give them enough so that they have food left over (after the holiday).”
Baskets went out to about 15 households this year, he said.
While the annual Thanksgiving donations get more attention, he said the food cupboard and Community Assistance Fund are active all year, particularly in the spring when many new employees arrive, often with nothing.
“Many have spent their last dime to come here,” Purkey said. “Many come from places of high unemployment and have borrowed from family and friends for transportation. They arrive here penniless.”
While new arrivals receive some help in the form of food vouchers from Xanterra, it can be as long as three weeks before newcomers receive their first paycheck.
Between March and early July, 32 households received assistance in the form of donations from the food cupboard and vouchers for perishables. The fund also helps with transportation for terminated employees, transients and residents who need to travel to Williams or Flagstaff for doctor’s visits. Last year, the fund gave out $2,237.60 in aid, with about 85 percent going to food.
The money comes from offerings collected at community Thanksgiving and Christmas services organized by the Park’s three protestant churches and through donations from parish fund at the El Christo Rey, the Catholic church here. Though administered through Christian organizations, the fund helps anyone in need, regardless of religious, ethnic or cultural background. Recipients don’t have to be affiliated with the park to qualify for aid, Purkey said.