A cross section of America will drive up to a renovated warehouse in Southeast Washington on Thanksgiving morning: members of a gay and lesbian bikers club, employees of the World Bank, college students, elderly women and parents with kids in the back seat.
They'll pick up turkey dinners: 500 meals for Northern Virginia, 300 for suburban Maryland, 1,200 for District addresses. Each driver will hand a meal to someone sick from the virus that causes AIDS.
On a normal day, Food and Friends delivers 500 meals. But for Thanksgiving, the nonprofit organization increased portions so that every client could invite at least three guests for dinner.
Many served by Food and Friends are unable to leave home. All of them lack the means to buy or prepare food for themselves, let alone anyone else, said Craig Sniderman, of Food and Friends. Giving them extra for Thanksgiving, he added, creates a social opportunity and a chance to share.
"People who often feel dependent," Sniderman said, "will on this special day be the hosts, the givers. We think it's important."
A tiny staff and an army of volunteers have been cooking since Monday. Their efforts are but a small portion of those made by hundreds of charities and churches in the region this Thanksgiving.
At a warehouse in Lorton yesterday, Christian Relief Services handed out 16,000 turkeys and 300,000 pounds of trimmings to representatives of 88 charities and churches. Deliverance Temple in Capitol Heights, for example, received holiday fixings for 600 families. Black Women United for Action in Springfield got enough for 100.
Food for Others in Fairfax County picked up 200 turkeys to supplement the 300 it already had. The group will deliver baskets to 16 low-income neighborhoods in the affluent county, said Ed Demoney, president of Food for Others. It also pitched in to help the Fairfax County Holiday Assistance Program. The program allows families to request groceries for Thanksgiving through their neighborhood schools, then assigns an agency to deliver on the request.
Many of Food for Others' regular clients are immigrants. Although turkey, stuffing and cranberries are foreign foods for them, many immigrants seemed pleased to get them.
"Some of them preferred chicken, but most people want turkey at Thanksgiving," Demoney said. "We tried to help with instructions on how to cook it."
This week, Greater D.C. Cares has dispatched hundreds of volunteers to 48 charities needing holiday help. The volunteers delivered food for the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, bagged some of the 8,000 turkeys given away by the Capitol Area Food Bank, prepared dinners and played with the children of clients in the District's Healthy Babies Project.
Greater D.C. Cares has lined up enough volunteers to work at 21 sites tomorrow. At the Ronald McDonald House in Northeast, volunteers will prepare meals for out-of-town families visiting sick children in local hospitals. They'll stack the food collected tomorrow morning in a 5K Turkey Trot in Arlington.
All that remains to do at Food and Friends, Sniderman said, is to locate more pies. It's the only food the charity doesn't make, and donations haven't met demand. Sniderman is optimistic that the pies will somehow appear by 4 p.m. today.
CAPTION: Charley Carpenter, left, and Wayne Madden help load food that was distributed to churches and charities by Christian Relief Services.
CAPTION: Wayne Madden, who works for Washington Gas Light Co., pauses while loading boxes of frozen turkeys.