Despite challenges from COVID-19, Mighty Moms passes out free Thanksgiving meals for 10th straight year

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A volunteer carries a food box that will be distributed to a family for Thanksgiving. Mighty Moms, a local non-profit organization, passed out meals to families on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.
David Gray | The News

DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (The Livingston Parish News) — For the 10th straight year, Mighty Moms served up a mighty holiday feast.

This week, Mighty Moms passed out 75 Thanksgiving meals to families in need, continuing a decade-long tradition that began shortly after the local non-profit organization launched its mission to end childhood hunger in Livingston Parish.

Volunteers from Mighty Moms, Abundant Life Church in Denham Springs, and Wings of the Spirit, another local non-profit, passed out the meals Tuesday night as cars rolled through one after the other.

Each family received an entree, vegetables, side dishes, and dessert — enough to fill every stomach in the house on national turkey day.

“My family is so excited,” one person said after volunteers stored food boxes in her car. “Thank you so much.”

Over the years, the annual event has grown in popularity with all involved, becoming something volunteers have marked on their calendars, Mighty Moms co-founders Dawn Birdsong and Beth McCormick said.

That was no different this year, despite the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is my favorite thing we do,” McCormick said.

Mighty Moms began its Thanksgiving distribution 10 years ago, though it looked much differently than it did this week.

Instead of working in a well-lit parking lot at Abundant Life Church, Birdsong and McCormick recalled having to use flashlights while they and volunteers sorted through food in the parking lot of a convenience store near Eastover Estates, the area of town where Mighty Moms originally started in 2010.

“We called up our normal volunteers and asked them to cook a side dish, and then we were out in the parking lot with flashlights, sorting food and delivering it,” McCormick said with a laugh. “That is what we did the first year. It was pretty rough.”

And turkeyless, Birdsong and McCormick noted. So the next year, Mighty Moms decided to pass out turkeys, though that ultimately proved to be problematic.

“We started donating turkeys, but they were uncooked turkeys, and people didn’t want to take them,” McCormick said. “Either they didn’t know how to cook them or they didn’t have an oven to cook them in.

“So the year after that, we said, ‘If we’re gonna give out turkeys, we have to have them cooked.’”

Mighty Moms teamed with Christ Community Church the following year and split the costs for the Thanksgiving meals, a partnership that lasted the next several years. The organization also received a helpful gift from Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor, who allowed — and continues to allow — the organization to use his smoker to cook the turkeys.

“We have some dedicated people who help us do this every year,” Birdsong said.

In the last couple of years, Mighty Moms has worked with Wings of the Spirit, a Baton Rouge-based disaster relief and humanitarian outreach organization that formed in 2012.

Wings of the Spirit donates all the turkeys — 75 to this year’s cause — and volunteers are preparing the birds and turning the smoker on well before the sun rises, said founder Ryan Williams.

“Mighty Moms is the only ministry we’ve partnered with for Thanksgiving because I know they’ll get this food to the neediest people in this parish,” said Williams, whose organization donated a Bible book inside every turkey box. “They’re true to their word.”

With Wings of the Spirit taking care of the turkeys, Mighty Moms took care of the rest.

This year, the organization held a Thanksgiving “Pump’Can Patch” food drive to collect canned goods and other food for the endeavor. For about two weeks, people dropped a variety of items, such as boxed stuffing, boxed potatoes, canned yams or sweet potatoes, canned green beans or peas, cranberry sauce, canned gravy, canned pumpkin, and evaporated milk.

The donations poured in: Birdsong said people donated so much that “we have enough for Christmas, too.”

Jonathan Poche, of Landry Poche Farms in Holden, joined the cause by donating baskets full of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, filling up Mighty Moms’ recently-bought delivery truck.

On Monday, volunteers gathered at the organization’s office to arrange the food boxes that were to be passed out to families the next day. Not a second was wasted, Birdsong said.

“They knocked it out in an hour and a half,” she said. “We had some great volunteers this year.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, things were handled a little differently this year. To limit the amount of people coming at once, families had to sign up beforehand and were given a time slot to come to Abundant Life to pick up their meal.

In years past, Mighty Moms delivered all of the meals during Thanksgiving week, a huge undertaking that required planning, coordination, and a lot of drivers.

“You need at least 60 people to drive when you’re making that many deliveries,” McCormick said. “It takes a lot.”

Not as many volunteers were needed this year, but the ones that came were just as dedicated. They spent Tuesday night storing food in bags, unloading and stacking boxes, and placing them in the cars of families in need.

One volunteer, who asked to not be named, also made monetary donations to 10 unsuspecting families who received a $50 bill to go with their Thanksgiving meal.

All in all, this year was another success, McCormick and Birdsong said.

“With covid, you can’t go inside people’s houses because you don’t want to put your volunteers at risk or the people you’re donating to,” McCormick said. “So in a way, this year sort of feels different because you don’t really get to talk to the people and interact with them, which is what we love doing.

“But we’re still going to feed them, so it’ll work out.”

More about Mighty Moms

Mighty Moms is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that partners with the Livingston Parish Library and Livingston Parish Public Schools to spread its mission of “nurturing hungry children to success.”

It began in 2010 and consists of several ongoing projects, including the Full Tummy Project, the Food Pantry, and the Barrel Project. In recent years, Mighty Moms has distributed more than 21,000 Full Tummy Bags to Livingston Parish schools on a monthly grocery bill of $13,000.

Earlier this year, Mighty Moms launched its “Sponsor a Child” campaign, in which people can agree to cover weekend meals and snacks for one student by paying for a weekend ($6), a month ($30), or the entire school year ($300).

For more information, visit www.mightymomsgo.org.

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