It’s been a rough year for Marcia and Joseph Smith.
Marcia’s been out of work since January. Her husband, a construction worker, has had “work off and on – about as temporary as it gets,” he said.
“Robbing Peter to pay Paul, and Peter and Paul are poor,” the Wichita woman said.
So it was an all-too-easy decision for the couple to take the first spots in line for the annual Bread of Life Thanksgiving food giveaway today at 1301 E. Galena – at midnight Friday night.
“That way, we can get a little bit of help for the holidays, because without jobs and stuff there’s just no way we can get enough food,” Marcia Smith said.
About 600 people were lined up when the doors opened a little after 9 a.m. Saturday, picking up more than 1,500 donated turkeys and the trimmings for Thanksgiving from about 250 Wichitans who volunteered their Saturday to distribute the food.
“It’s pretty tight. You get an education, and nobody wants to hire you for your education because you know what’s going on,” Marcia said.
“The weather stops you from working, and there’s just no money to pay the bills,” Joseph Smith said.
That’s the kind of frustration – and the kind of grim stories of economic suffering – that ran up and down the line of people braving sub-freezing weather to get the turkey dinners.
It’s a high level of physical and spiritual frustration that the Rev. Donna Pinaire, organizer of the annual food program, says she’s intent on addressing.
“Our goal is to see that every family that needs a Thanksgiving meal gets one,” she said. “The need is so much greater this year. We’re at least 200 more per week here.”
Wichita police who were on the scene for crowd control agreed with Pinaire, saying homelessness is on the rise in Wichita.
Pinaire called Bread of Life a “food distribution program in south Wichita with a heart for Wichita. We don’t want anyone to go hungry.”
But Bread of Life goes deeper than that, Pinaire said: She wants to address the spiritual despair that builds in people with the money problems that were up and down the line outside her facility this morning.
“We see people get jobs that have been looking for years. We see people healed who are in a very bad way,” she said. “I get emotional about these people. I haven’t been in dire straits like some of them, but I think everyone has been in need. We all understand how close we are to their situation.
“Sometimes they don’t think anything of themselves. They don’t think they can be any more than this. I want them to know God loves them, and there is hope and improvement for them. You can see their faces change.”
Shanta Barnes, 21, needed the kind word and soft hug Pinaire was handing out this morning.
“I’m trying to get Thanksgiving dinner for me and my two kids. I want to make sure we have something to eat,” she said.
Barnes has been without work for six months.
“With the economy the way it is, there aren’t any jobs and people have quit hiring for the season,” she said.
She was in the right place Saturday, Joseph Smith said.
“This deal right here is proof that Wichita is full of good people,” he said.