Ada Richardson and her two young daughters are going to celebrate Thanksgiving in style tomorrow with a "feast" of chicken, canned vegetables and sweet potato pie.
Like last year and the year before, the welfare mother has run out of food stamps by this time of month. But this time she will not forgo a Thanksgiving meal.
As the result of local Unitarian churches' annual Thanksgiving food drive, Richardson's family and 80 others will be eating more festive meals. At their Sunday services this week, Unitarian congregations donated bags of nonperishable groceries that were delivered to All Souls Unitarian Church at 16th and Harvard streets NW.
By 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the corridors of All Souls, the church of Mayor Marion Barry, were lined with neighborhood people hoping to take home a Thanksgiving meal.
Heads of households waited patiently for their names to be called.
Then they entered a room where the food was arranged in boxes and distributed according to family size. After giving their names and addresses for church records, each family was given a box of food, containing a variety of fresh and canned meat, and at least $5 worth of coupons redeemable at local food stores.
Feeding the hungry is nothing new of All Souls, said the Rev. Frank Robertson, minister of the education and senior citizen programs at the church. Special collections taken in local Unitarian churches at Thanksgiving and Christmas allow All Souls to distribute Thanksgiving food and maintain a year-round emergency food fund.
"The last weeks of the month, people on welfare run out of money for food and they're hungry," said Robertson. "The D.C. government has no practical emergency food fund for these people, so we try to help."
"But there's so little we can do," he said. "If we allot $250 for the month, it's usually gone in 10 days."
The church normally only gives the needy food coupons, which range in value from $2 on up, said Robertson.
When the church can't help, it refers the person to another agency, such as a soup kitchen or housing agency, said Robertson.
The church keeps records of each transaction, according to the Rev. Harry C. Green, assistant minister at the church, so workers can see which people are returning. "We don't like to serve the same people all the time," he said.
Green said he doesn't think churches here are doing enough to feed the hungry. "People are constantly coming here with dire needs," he said. "We just can't help them all."
Robertson said he would like to see the D.C. government develop an emergency food fund, which the needy could draw from several times a year.
Church members will be distributing food until this evening, said Virginia Johnson, a church volunteer who helped sort and distribute food Sunday.
"We'll be getting a lot more food from the outlying churches," she said. "We won't turn anybody away."
One woman said she hadn't planned on a special Thinksgiving dinner until she heard of the All Souls progam. "If I get some food," she said, "I'll set up the table real nice and have my friends over and have the blessing and say thank you for what we have."
And then, she said she'll worry about Christmas.