Thanksgiving for Thousands still a local holiday tradition

More than 17 years ago, Roger Marino had a vision of helping the less fortunate around the holiday season. Today, his food drive initiative, Thanksgiving for Thousands, has helped countless families throughout the Delmarva peninsula enjoy their Thanksgiving holiday, as well as bringing together hundreds of volunteers to help their neighbors – a particular priority now, as families continue to suffer in a difficult job market and slow housing market.

“It’s amazing to see the number of people come out and volunteer their time,” said Marino, the corporate community relations director for Mountaire Farms of Delaware.

In 2007, Marino and Mountaire began a partnership with Hocker’s Super Center in Millville and the Dagsboro Church of God to help – not only with donated items – but soliciting volunteers to help package the meals and distribute them to families across the region.

“So many people come out to help package the food or ask at the grocery stores for donations,” Marino noted, “and a lot of these people are living on marginal conditions themselves. We’ve even had homeless individuals helping us out. It’s truly amazing to watch people helping their fellow man.”

Last year, Thanksgiving for Thousands came together to feed more than 45,000 people and, through donations and volunteers, they’re hoping to reach that number again this season. In the weeks leading up to Monday, Nov. 21, people have been purchasing Thanksgiving dinner items, including canned corn, string beans, peas, pork and beans, yams, gravy and cranberries, as well as boxes of stuffing mix and brownie mix, to donate to needy families.

When the volunteers are finished compiling the donations into Thanksgiving care packages on Nov. 21, each box will also have a plump Mountaire roaster, compliments of the poultry company. Mountaire also includes a job application form in every box, giving those who have been rendered unemployed the opportunity to perhaps get things turned around once again.

Every year, food banks, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and churches team up in the effort to identify families that are struggling through the holiday seasons.

“While it’s great to see so many people helping out,” said Marino, “it’s discouraging to watch the number of people in need increasing every year. With the housing market and foreclosures paired up with the damaged economy, it has started to drift into neighborhoods. You may not even realize how affected someone living right next door to you has become. As they say, hunger begets hurt, and hurt begets hate. We want to help with that hunger problem from the start and keep it from getting any deeper.”

He added that only one or two year-round soup kitchens and homeless shelters were in the area when Thanksgiving for Thousands began. Now, that number is up to 20.

“This goes beyond the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Marino. “After Thanksgiving, we’d like to meet with the heads of these shelters, food banks and soup kitchens and look at a game plan to get a feel for who needs our help throughout Delmarva. This is America’s truest holiday. It’s what this country was founded on. It gives cultures the opportunity to look at things in a different light.”

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Marino estimates that 400 to 500 volunteers will donate their time to help package Thanksgiving meals in close to 7,000 boxes, which will be distributed the following day throughout Delmarva, feeding as many as 45,000 individuals. The following day, volunteers at the Dagsboro Church of God will load the boxes into trucks that will deliver the meals throughout surrounding communities.

For more information about Thanksgiving for Thousands, or to get involved, visit or contact Roger Marino at or by calling (302) 934-3123.