Rallying the Troops

Amy Hall, the head of the Volusia Basket Brigade, thanked the crowd of volunteers during the annual Volusia Thanksgiving Basket Brigade at Daytona State College in 2019.

The Volusia Thanksgiving Basket Brigade is calling on volunteers and donors to create and deliver Thanksgiving boxes to families in need throughout Volusia County.

The local event has been going on for 23 years and is part of The Tony Robbins Foundation International Basket Brigade. Millions are fed throughout the world through the International Basket Brigade thanks to volunteer brigades, including the one in Volusia.

Amy Hall, the local brigade coordinator, and her husband, Jason, have been part of the Volusia Thanksgiving Basket Brigade since its inception.

Both work year-round to provide meals where needed, but especially at Thanksgiving.

For example, 50 veterans received groceries in May and 300 backpacks full of school supplies were given to low-income elementary school children in August.

The Volusia Brigade's goal this year is 3,500 boxes filled with all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast to families throughout Volusia. The inaugural event filled 75 boxes.

Decorated, food-filled boxes are needed as well as drivers to deliver them. Organizations, such as Port Orange Community Trust, will be assisting. Nominations are still needed for families or individuals who could benefit from the Thanksgiving boxes.

The pandemic has increased the need for baskets.

“Over the last two years, we have seen a huge increase in the number of individuals who have asked for some assistance,” Ms. Hall said. “A lot of families are out of work, or they are not able to make ends meet. The cost of goods has gone up so much. Salaries are not going up, but cost of living certainly is. So, we are seeing a lot of families that have the need.”

But while the requests for help are up, commitments from those willing to help are down so far.

Potential donors are given a suggested food list requesting nonperishable items, such as canned vegetables and stuffing and are also asked to add a $10 to $15 gift card towards a ham or a turkey. Many people add to the suggestions with additional items. Donors are encouraged to decorate their box. Since recipients will get their boxes before Thanksgiving, they can purchase their own ham or turkey with the gift card they get as part of their box.

This year boxes will again be used instead of baskets. They are free at any RE/MAX office in Volusia County, Publix stores, LaBosco’s Jewelry Castle and Gary Yeomans Ford.

Drop-off locations will open Nov. 12 and a complete list of locations will be posted soon to the Brigade's website. Drop off locations so far include the RE/MAX officers, LaBosco’s Jewelry Castle, Yeomans Ford, McKenna's restaurants in Port Orange and New Smyrna Beach, New Journey Chiropractic and Fairwinds Credit Union in Ormond Beach, Bishop’s Automotive in New Smyrna Beach, and the Volusia County School Board office in DeLand.

The Brigade will need 400 to 500 drivers, who will do a drive-through pick up of the boxes Nov. 20 at Daytona State College. For Covid reasons, boxes will be placed on doorsteps and drivers will have no interaction with recipients. Each box typically feeds a family of five, so the goal is to feed 15,000 people in Volusia County.

“I am very confident in saying this is the largest community-wide effort that exists in Volusia,” Ms. Hall said. “People come from all walks of life. I’ve had people donate $5, but they are doing what they absolutely can. From our donations to our drivers to people that are nominating. Businesses I’ve never heard of are stepping up. Thousands of people put their hands in this brigade. It’s amazing. It’s so heartwarming to see a community come together in such a way.”

People can self-nominate for the Thanksgiving box. Local agencies and schools also provide names to the Brigade. Recipients do not know who nominated them.

Volunteers and financial contributions are always needed. For information visit volusiabasketbrigade.com/.

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