Commentary by Bill Buchanan
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Ava and I always have our “strays and orphans” gathering, which is Thanksgiving dinner with friends who either have no family, no family close enough to easily visit, or who would just rather spend the day in the company of friends. It is a great day of wonderful food, games (charades and football), laughter, and lively conversation.
But for many in our community, that is not the case. While economic times are very hard, most of us are blessed to have a warm home and enough food on the table. But there are many who do not.
I will always remember a particular Thanksgiving in 1989. When Ava and I lived in north Alabama, we volunteered at a citywide Thanksgiving dinner. The dinner started out as just that; people prepared a Thanksgiving luncheon for those who might otherwise have none. The event grew each year, and each year, more offerings were added. One year, winter coats were donated. They were hung on a rack and folks could try them on, and select one to take with them after they ate. Another year, a local band came in and played Christmas music. We brought in Santa Claus, and raised enough money to buy a toy for each child who came. The crowd grew to more than 300 people.
But I will always remember one particular woman. Each child got to choose a toy, then sit in Santa’s lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. While sitting with Santa, a volunteer took a Polaroid photo, which they gave to the child’s parent. The woman thanked the photographer profusely for the instant photo. She said, “Oh, thank you so much. My little girl is 5, and this is the only picture I have of her.” Her comment hit me like a slap across the face, and gave me a glimpse of the harsh reality many people confront every day.
Ojai is blessed with several organizations, including Help of Ojai, which do a wonderful job assisting those in need. Local banks are currently in the middle of their holiday food drive. All of the food collected stays here to help individuals and families in the Ojai Valley. If you want to help, you may drop off food or gift certificates from local grocery stores at Bank of America, Pacific Western Bank, Ojai Community Bank, Rabobank, and Wells Fargo Bank. During this holiday season, please consider helping by donating your time, money or food items to these or other worthy causes.
Even a small gift can make a big difference to someone in need.