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Area charities struggle to meet demand for Thanksgiving food

Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange already has more than 500 families asking for Thanksgiving meals this year and is expecting at least 600, Executive Director Shonda Schaefer said.

Last year, the private social service agency provided about 375 families with Thanksgiving dinner."Our peak days are still coming up," Schaefer said.

The group is among several area charities working to meet a sharp increase in new clients struggling to feed their families in a declining economy.

The Web page of the Community Storehouse in Keller offered the following plea Monday afternoon: "Our pantry is the lowest that it has been in three years. We need your help to make sure that our clients are looked after."

Requests for help from the group are up 57 percent from the same point last year, Executive Director Barbara Board said.

"Since I've been here, we've never had to turn anyone away," said Board, who has been with the group since 2000. "We're within about 30 families of saying 'Sorry, we can't help you.'"

Requests for aid from the Tarrant Area Food Bank, which supplies 300 organizations in 13 counties, are up about 50 percent from last year, spokeswoman Andrea Helms said.

"The need for the holidays is just going to be huge," Helms said. "Right now, we could use 10,000 turkeys."

Along with increased demand for services, some organizations struggle with diminishing donations. Schaefer is worried about making ends meet after the holidays, while the Tarrant Area Food Bank is conducting 240 food drives. The Community Storehouse needs a big influx in food items and unwrapped toys for a Christmas program.

The economic downturn has also put the squeeze on the elderly and infirm served by Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County. The group serves 2,000 people a day, about 200 more than the same time last year.

"When family can't take care of them anymore or have to get second jobs, sometimes they have to call us," Jutson said. "We're being impacted a lot more than we thought we would. And we always need help desperately even in the best of times."

Schaefer had some good news to report. A few successful food drives by local churches ensure that GRACE will most likely help anyone who needs it. It offered leftover food to other charities coming up short, she said. "That's something to be thankful for," Schaefer said.

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