STEUBENVILLE - The Rev. Ashley Steele keeps a positive attitude when it comes to raising money to make things happen at Urban Mission Ministries, which provides food, shelter and other essential services to the low-income population of the Upper Ohio Valley.
Right now, it's critical to provide 1,300 needy families with Thanksgiving baskets at $35 each - 100 more than last year - but Steele flexes her faith muscles in response to such challenges.
"The need is great," Steele said of what's an anticipated theme each holiday as requests for help get amplified attention, "but we don't want to focus on that as much as we know that the generosity is greater. The community does really show its support.
GOBBLE GOBBLE — Urban Mission Ministries is in the Thanksgiving throes of raising money to provide a holiday meal for 1,300 local families in need. Looking to reach the $45,000 goal to make that happen are, from left, the Rev. Ashley Steele, the mission’s executive director; Linda Smith, program director; and Bud Birger, warehouse director. - Janice Kiaski
"There's always going to be a need, but we know that God's love is bigger than that," Steele said with confidence.
Getting the message out, however, helps, and that involves "Bountiful Thom" making area appearances.
"He is our mascot, he is our biggest supporter, and he's the one that the last couple of years has really been getting the word out to what our program's all about, and the help that we need, and the dollars we need to make the program work," said Linda Smith, program director.
"Thom's message is we need the funding to do the program - we are packing 1,300 bags this year, which is a hundred bags more than we've ever packed, so it's going to take every penny of our fundraiser so that we can cover everything," Smith said.
"The bags are going to be a complete meal. When the folks leave, they're going to have everything for a complete Thanksgiving dinner," Smith said.
That will include a meat certificate, potatoes, noodles, gravy, two fruits, two vegetables, eggs, bread, stuffing mix, milk, cake mix and frosting, "a munchie," marshmallows for the sweet potatoes, Jell-O, cereal and two loaves of bread.
A donation of $35 covers one family. Checks can be made payable to Urban Mission Ministries with "Thanksgiving" on the memo line and sent to the mission at 301 N. Fifth St., Steubenville, OH 43952. The phone number is (740) 282-8010. Donations also can be made on the mission's website at www.urbanmission.org.
Steele said the mission is able to stretch dollars thanks to being thrifty and getting discounted prices through the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.
What also helps are the donations of nonperishable items from churches, businesses, organizations and schools, all of which help supplement the effort.
The economy attributes to the increasing need, according to the mission officials.
"A lot of our folks coming in right now, the statement is 'We got our food stamps cut, and we can't do it now as we could before.' We have over 1,400 families registered just since June, and that's a lot for that length of time," Smith said.
Another cause for increased need, they speculated, is because of the closing of the Toronto Food Panty plus a pantry in Cadiz that ran out of supplies brought more demands as well.
"The demand is everywhere," Smith said.
Thom Turkey continues to make visits this month, according to Steele, and is available for scheduling by calling (740) 282-8010.
The Thanksgiving basket distribution dates are Nov. 20-22, but donations will be accepted any time during the month with any overflow distributed in December.