Expected to draw more than 3,000 families to the Mountain View Community Center, the neighborhood’s annual Thanksgiving Blessing kicks off Monday at noon.
But making the event a success takes a massive community effort that begins much earlier.
“It’s a huge endeavor,” said Karla Jutzi, a spokeswoman for the Food Bank of Alaska.
While the Food Bank organizes the Thanksgiving Blessing, which takes place at six locations around Anchorage, individual site coordinators are responsible for pulling together the volunteers and donations necessary to make everything run smoothly.
In Mountain View, that person is Pastor Eileen Star.
“This lady does it year after year, and she’s got a number of churches and other organizations that are collecting food,” Jutzi said.
Star said putting together the largest Thanksgiving Blessing in Anchorage requires the help of many community volunteers, including more than half a dozen churches that work to collect donations of food in the weeks leading up to the big day.
“There are so many people involved in little ways, it’s really uplifting,” Star said.
One of those people is Mary Epperson, who rallies the congregation at Mountain View’s Leake Temple AME Zion Church in preparation for the Thanksgiving Blessing every year.
“We always look out for Mountain View,” Epperson said.
Wednesday afternoon, she and Rev. Alphonso Meadows handed this year’s donation — dozens of cases of canned vegetables stacked in the church atrium — to volunteers from the Food Bank of Alaska. The Food Bank will deliver the goods to the community center Sunday, along with donations from other sites around Anchorage.
While Leake Temple is home to a small congregation, with around 150 members and a weekly attendance of about 80 people, it gathered more than 600 cans of food for this year’s Thanksgiving Blessing.
“At church here, we have someone, ‘I’m giving six cases, who can beat this?'” Epperson said. “So we have drives like that, and that’s why you see so many canned goods and green beans out there.”
Meadows, who began leading Leake Temple nearly two years ago, said the congregation is inspired by the example of founding Pastor T.A. Moore — “He had an incredible capacity for love.”
“The congregation considers it a privilege to be able to give,” Meadows said. “As they have been blessed, they want to bless.”
For them, Thanksgiving Blessing is about spreading love, Epperson said; “The greatest gift of all.”