‘It’s the best thing that I’ve ever been a part of’: Goodman preps nearly 4,000 Thanksgiving meals

Ward Harding spends most Tuesday mornings waiting on his number to be called.

” I enjoy this. I look forward to it, ” Harding said.

The Korean War veteran finds a spot around one of the many tables at Goodman Community Center’s food pantry. Harding sips on multiple cups of coffee and enjoys a free meal before shopping for his groceries. He gets that anyone can fall on hard times. Harding did before he started coming a few years ago. What he appreciates most, he said, is talking to different people with different experiences who all need to fill one common need.

” People can sit down, they can be themselves. They don’t have to be intelligent, they don’t have to be wealthy. They just have to be a person, ” Harding said.

According to food pantry coordinator Sam McDaniel, the number of people coming to Goodman to feed their families has gone up by 25% this year alone. For the first time, the annual Thanksgiving basket drive will serve nearly 4,000 Dane County families. McDaniel said more than half of the 23,000 residents the organization will serve are children.

” There are 600, 700 volunteers over the course of this program who are here to help. Everybody lives here. They’re all members of the community. They’re all here to help other people they don’t know. And you can see it in the people’s faces when they come how much that means, ” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said the Thanksgiving dinners draw people in who may have never been to Goodman before, which means they’re more likely to come back and use other services they need.

“There are so many programs and services that we offer here that lots of people need and don’t know exist and the more we have them come here and feel comfortable, the more likely they are to come to the food pantry, to come to the older adult programming, or to bring their kids to preschool or after-school,” McDaniel said.

All of this year’s baskets are spoken for, but there is still time to donate food and money to the cause. McDaniel said the biggest need is for frozen turkeys. He said monetary contributions can go a long way because Goodman can multiply a dollar by three or four, thanks to partnerships with area food banks and other organizations.

” It’s the best thing that I’ve ever been a part of. I really think a big component of it is a feeling of community and family, really, that comes with this program, ” McDaniel said.

T hat feeling of community is something Harding can attest to.

“They’re just doing the right thing,” Harding said.

For more information on the Thanksgiving baskets, visit the G oodman Community Center’s website.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.