Joseph House Thanksgiving collections are under way

Berni and Jim Greene’s children were toddlers when their parents started collecting for a local Thanksgiving food drive, to benefit The Joseph House.

That was in 1989 or 1990 and this year, on the 30th anniversary of the drive, the Greenes are still stocking that pantry, now with the help of their grandchildren and a promise from their daughter to take over eventually.

“It’s something that needs to be done. We have people in this community who are not as well off as we are and we instilled that in our children. They were preschoolers helping us. Every year it was, ‘Mom, when’s the food drive? When’s the food drive?’” Mrs. Greene said.

Year after year, they quietly persevered, not looking for notoriety, just organizing volunteers who place plastic grocery bags on residents’ porches, and pick them up once they are filled.

Usually, they collect 11,000 to 12,000 pounds of non-perishables.

Planning begins in early September and 40 volunteers stand ready. Children who get involved earn community service credits for schools, while learning the importance of altruism.

Among those who assist is former Salisbury mayor Barrie Tilghman. When she was in office, the Greenes were honored with a proclamation from the city, but Greene humbly downplayed having the spotlight on his family.

“It’s something we do simply because there’s a need. The Joseph House has guidelines about how the public can obtain the food. They don’t sell it like the food bank does. They give it out to people who are in need,” the self-employed contractor said. His wife is a teacher.

About 6,000 plastic grocery bags, donated by local establishments, are placed on porches in 41 neighborhoods. Informational fliers are attached.

This Saturday, the bags will be gathered, then taken to the Wicomico County Youth & Civic Center where they will be loaded into volunteers’ pick-ups and a truck lent by Outten Furniture, then delivered to the Joseph House for sorting.

Greene said the food fills pantry shelves there for almost a year.

“The sisters are always waiting there when I come through with the truck. They have a fork lift ready and people inside to help,” he said.

Sometimes he hears about those who go to get food. Some are struggling through illnesses or financial hardship. Once, he volunteered at a local soup kitchen and recognized a former classmate, reminding him that, sadly, anyone can fall on difficult times.

“We could all be there,” said Greene, who’s 63.

“I like just the sheer gratitude, that it’s appreciated. It’s something our neighborhood association did when we first moved here. When we started, there were only about six neighborhoods involved. Since then we accumulated almost 40 additional neighborhoods. We thought, ‘Well that’s a good idea. We’ll take the kids and we’ll do it,’” he said.

“We knew there was a need, but we didn’t realize how much of a need. We do it for that reason.”

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