In 2011, Assistance Center of Towson Churches provided about 27,000 clients in need with donated Thanksgiving dinners—an increase of approximately 10,000 from the previous year.
This year, organizers expect to see another drastic rise in the number of those they serve.
"Every year we worry about having enough but somehow we've managed," said Cathy Burgess, executive director of the church network, which consists of about 50 congregations that service Towson, Parkville and Lutherville-Timonium.
The Thanksgiving basket giveaway began about 18 to 20 years ago, initially as a collaboration with the county department of social services.
Volunteers from the assistance center and other community organizations are spending much of the week accepting donations. On Wednesday, the first day of collection, they had collected about 1,700 bags of food—1,100 of which were from Church of the Nativity.
The bulk of the donations will go to local agencies such as county service departments, Villa Maria behavioral health clinic and TurnAround domestic violence center.
The volunteers will hand out the remaining baskets to walk-ins registered with the assistance center on Nov. 19 and 20.
Each bag contains a 23 to 29 ounce can of sweet potatoes or yams, two 15 to 24 ounce cans of meat such as beef stew or chili, a 20 to 30 ounce can of fruit, four 15 ounce cans of vegetables, one cranberry sauce, two packages of macaroni and cheese, one box instant mashed potatoes, one cake or brownie mix, one bag or box of stuffing mix and one pound bag or box of rice. Additionally, each family will receive a turkey or a gift card to purchase one.
Interested donors can purchase already assembled bags at the Timonium Mars, Timonium ShopRite, Timonium Giant or the Drumcastle Giant. The bags can be dropped off at Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson.
"We're still looking for donations," said Suzanne Boellner, a board member and vice president of resources for the center. "We'll be here [Thursday] and Friday."
Collections are being accepted between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Mark Stokes, who started volunteering with the center full time in 1996, heads the collection.
"It's a real honor to help these people," Stokes said. "Thanksgiving is our big event but [the center helps] out all year, around the clock."