In Hard Times, Lines Long for a Giveaway

In Maryland, Virginia and the District, locals find ways to tell stories, give thanks and share blessings.
By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As she stood in a line that snaked around FedEx Field yesterday, Tomika Carter said she has "never, ever" done anything like this. The emphasis was on never.

Carter was one of thousands of people who waited yesterday -- some for as many as five hours -- to receive a free turkey, the trimmings and a bag of toys from about 30 Washington Redskins players lined up inside the main level concourse of the stadium.

"We're going deep into a recession," said Carter, 35, of Suitland, who recently got a second job to bring in extra money. "Things are kind of tight."

The event, known as Harvest Feast, has been held for the past six years, and yesterday's crowd was said to be one of the largest. "I'm sure we had more people this year, which says something about the economy and the fact that more people are aware of the program," said Betti-Jo Corriveau, the Redskins' vice president of community and charitable programs.

People came from across the region for free bundles of food.

Shaukia Melvin and her cousin, Tarsha Lyons, who came from the District, were grateful for the help. Both were laid off from their jobs in July. Like Carter, neither has ever gone to a turkey giveaway before. Yesterday, they waited four hours for the free food.

"My kids gotta eat," Melvin said as she rushed off to pick up her 10-pound turkey.

Lugging her bags to her car, Harriet Moseley, 65, said a mortgage scam forced her to make her first appearance at Harvest Feast.

Moseley, of Capitol Heights, went to a foreclosure rescue company for help after falling behind on adjustable-rate mortgage payments this year. She and her husband were told to stop paying their mortgage while the company straightened out their finances. Now, Moseley said, she is trying to save her home.

"This is my first time here. Hopefully, it's my last time coming, too," she said.

County Council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) watched as people picked up their bags of food. "You can see that the need is great," he said. He commended the Redskins for giving back to the community.

The bags of food were contributed by Operation Blessing, an organization that provides short-term medical, hunger and disaster aid to communities across the country. The 3,000 turkeys -- 36,000 pounds of meat -- were donated by Harris Teeter. Also involved in providing help were FedEx, Ryan Homes and Wachovia.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company