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A leg up for a turkey day meal

The shopping cart caravan traversing the east Medford Albertsons parking lot Tuesday afternoon drew more than a few curious eyes.

Ashley Short-Hess, leading the way with a cart in each hand, reached the destination first, pulling open the back doors of the black van marked with the blue triangle of local support network Maslow Project.

Within a few minutes, two, then three of the carts were emptied. The cargo — bags of pre-made Thanksgiving meals including whole cooked turkeys — was one step closer to the families due to receive them.

The special-order service Maslow Project is providing to 24 local families this year is just one way that locals are aiming to make a particularly cold Thanksgiving warmer for those without the means to pay for or prepare one of the most celebrated meals in the American holiday roster.

“It’s Thanksgiving,” said David Lewis, general manager and co-owner of The Point Pub & Grill, which is serving its own meal Thanksgiving Day. “It’s ... being thankful for the community we have around us and the access to the relations we have, and making sure they get put to use.”

About a half-hour after Short-Hess and Reishelle Hoeschen, a family advocate with Maslow, carefully placed the meals in the back of the van, Cady Pierson and other residents at Newbridge Place in west Medford braved the frigid temperatures and swelling gusts of the approaching “bomb-cyclone” system to receive the meals.

Pierson and her family didn’t have a permanent home as recently as Halloween. With help from Maslow staff, they found relief in the Newbridge Place apartments, where they now live alongside several other families.

“I wasn’t even expecting the Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s great,” Pierson said. “Maslow’s so great because they do a lot more than just ‘give back to the community.’ They’re helping individual families.”

Each bag contained cases of mashed potatoes, a pumpkin pie and other Thanksgiving staples. Recipients could choose between a whole cooked turkey or breast meat.

The meals that Maslow provided are meant for families like Pierson’s, who want to spend the holiday in a new home, or who don’t have easily accessible transportation or generally prefer to take their meal in a more private space.

For those looking for company and activity, volunteers across the Rogue Valley are pulling together community-centered options for Thanksgiving.

Cafe Dejeuner is one. It first served a Thanksgiving meal in 2008, owner Terry Swenson told the Mail Tribune in 2015.

This year, it’ll be open again to those in need of a leg up on Turkey Day. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1108 E. Main St., volunteers will staff a traditional dinner.

The Peace Meals in Ashland, meanwhile, are still holding a Thanksgiving meal, despite a change in location from Pioneer Hall to the Bellview Grange, according Vanessa Houk with Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice.

The meal will be served from 2 to 4 p.m., with a warming shelter available the night before and after the meal, according to Houk’s post.

Owners of the Point Pub & Grill decided to work at eliminating transportation barriers by providing a shuttle between Medford and its Central Point location, where a traditional meal will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“It’s kind of just that community partnership,” said Lewis. “We try to support this community in as many ways as we can.”

Beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the south Medford restaurant, a shuttle provided by Family Nurturing Center will pick up and transport meal-seekers. It will make two more stops in Medford before heading out to Central Point: first at Alba Park and then farther north near the St. Vincent De Paul campus at 2424 N. Pacific Highway.

Medford First Christian Church will serve a meal from 2 to 5 p.m. at 1900 Crater Lake Ave., and Compassion Highway Project is sponsoring a meal at the Medford United Methodist Church from noon to 3 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneMaslow’s Ashley Short-Hess and Albertsons employee Karen Tracer unload carts full of food for thanksgiving dinners Tuesday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneMaslow’s Ashley Short-Hess gets ready to move carts full of food for Thanksgiving dinners Tuesday from Albertsons off North Phoenix Road.