In this 2007 file photo, Leah Udwin, a teacher from Holland Hall School, 5666 E. 81st St., helps hand out Thanksgiving baskets at Restore Hope Ministries. Tulsa World File

Rush for Thanksgiving baskets causes Tulsa traffic jam

BY MIKE AVERILL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
11/25/2009 12:19:43 PM

A record number of people registered for Thanksgiving baskets this year at Restore Hope Ministries, resulting in a traffic jam along Charles Page Boulevard Wednesday morning when they arrived to pick up their turkeys.

More than 800 families signed up for baskets this year compared to 550 last year.

“About 60 percent have never been here before. They’re families that are newly low income that either one or both of the people have lost jobs and are trying to make ends meet on unemployment,” said Rev. Larry Johnson, executive director.

The majority of the families showed up about 7 a.m., hours before the scheduled 9:30 start time.

“We had a traffic jam. These families aren’t used to doing this. They weren’t sure we could follow through,” Johnson said.

The line for baskets was four blocks long outside the ministry, 2960 Charles Page Blvd. “We usually don’t have that problem. Most families come out between 9:30 to noon. That didn’t happen today,” Johnson said.

“I haven’t seen the need like this since the late 80s. The economy was bad then, but it seems worse now. Maybe it’s the kind of families that have been impacted, more white collar that never thought they’d be in the position they are in now. Maybe that’s why feelings are a little heavier.”

Overall demand at the ministry is up 30 percent this fall.

Johnson said they had to stop registration for the Thanksgiving baskets halfway through the three-week registration period because demand was so high.

Restore Hope began its Thanksgiving basket program more than 20 years ago when it was located across the street from the Salvation Army.

“They came over and asked if we could help with baskets so they could focus on Christmas,” Johnson said. “It was on a lot smaller scale then.”

Johnson said about 300 families were assisted in the first year. Each basket contained a turkey and 19 other items.

“We try to give them enough for the whole weekend,” Johnson said.

PDF: 2009.11.25_Thanksgiving-Baskets-Create-Traffic-Jam_TulsaWorld