As people across Northeast Tennessee spend the weekend bringing in groceries and starting preparations for Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day dinner, the region’s nonprofit agencies are working hard to ensure those who struggle for food are not left out.

At Good Samaritan Ministries, holiday food box deliveries began Friday and were to continue Saturday morning with help from a team of volunteers from the Johnson City Police Department.

Good Samaritan Executive Director Aaron Murphy said the ministry’s goal was to provide a large food box and frozen turkey to 700 low-income families or about twice the number included in past holiday food distributions.

With the greater need that has occurred as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, about 200 more families are on the ministry’s waiting list. And Murphy expects the number of families included in the Thanksgiving distribution to grow to approximately 900 by the time the deliveries wrap up on Wednesday.

In addition to the food boxes, Good Samaritan volunteers and a large contingent of Johnson City firefighters are set to deliver fully-prepared family-size holiday dinners to the homes of 200 areas seniors, disabled adults and veterans Tuesday and Wednesday.

With support from community members who have donated to the project, Murphy said the ministry on Friday was within $20,000 to $25,000 of covering the entire cost of the project.

The ministry invites those who wish to help meet that final cost to make donations earmarked for Thanksgiving online at www.goodsamjc.org or by mail to Good Samaritan Ministries, P.O. Box 2441, Johnson City, TN 37605. A $35 donation will provide a food box and turkey or a fully prepared holiday dinner to one household.

• At Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, which lends its support to about 150 community-based food assistance agencies across the eightregion, this year’s Project Thanksgiving goal is to provide a holiday food box and turkey to 10,000 area homes in need.

In an e-blast to food bank supporters, Second Harvest Executive Director Rhonda Chafin said after a difficult year, thousands more children, families and seniors are turning to Second Harvest Foodfor help.

“Together, we can make sure no one goes hungry this holiday season.” she said.

“Thanksgiving is almost here,” she said. “Your support will give our struggling neighbors a reason to be hopeful. Not only that, you’ll make your own celebration more special.”

A $25 gift to the Second Harvest’s 12th annual Project Thanksgiving will provide a holiday food box with a turkey and all the trimmings for one family. Donations may be made online at netfoodbank.org or by mail to Second Harvest Food Bank, 1020 Jericho Drive, Kingsport, TN, 37663.

For more information, including where to find a local pantry or a food relief agency participating in the distribution, call the food bank at 423-279-0430.

• At Johnson City’s Haven of Mercy, where thousands of people in need come for a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner and fellowship, the holiday will look a little different this year.

Because of the pandemic, the ministry’s Pastor and CEO Grant Rockley said to-go boxes loaded with turkey and ham and trimmings will be available for pickup at the front gate from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

And while the Haven’s dining room will be open, seating will be limited to 15 or 20 guests at one time, masks will be required, temperatures will be taken and no one with symptoms of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will be allowed inside.

Rockley said the same safety measures will apply for the volunteers who come to serve Haven of Mercy on Thanksgiving Day because they enjoy it.

“We’ll be handing out meals they can take with them. And we’ll be delivering. But we are going to have to monitor it pretty closely because of the health restraints. We have to. The main thing is to keep everyone healthy,” he said.

For those who wish to contribute to the dinner, desserts are the greatest need followed by mashed potatoes.

“We have all the turkeys and hams we will need,” Rockley said. “But whatever people want to bring, we won’t turn anything away because we feed here every day and our men’s and women’s shelters are full.”

For those who wish to make a monetary gift, donations may be made online at www.havenofmercy.net or by mail to Haven of Mercy Ministries, PO Box 5490, Johnson City, TN 37602-5490.