Good Samaritan Ministries has launched its annual drive to provide turkeys, large family food boxes and prepared holiday meals to hundreds of area families and seniors who will be in need at Thanksgiving.

With the number of local people in need for food assistance dramatically increased by the months-long coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Good Samaritan Thanksgiving distribution will more than double the number of the people included in last year’s holiday outreach.

Good Samaritan Ministries Executive Director Aaron Murphy said Friday, “Our number of grandparent-led families has increased. Our number of people who are unemployed by COVID has increased. And in the midst of a pandemic, our families still have a need for holiday meals.

“All total, it’s well over 2,000 meals. That’s what we’re projecting,” Murphy said.

To meet the increased need, Good Samaritan is working to provide all ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving meal and an additional three-week supply of groceries for more than 700 families and an additional 200 fully prepared Thanksgiving dinners for delivery to home-bound seniors and disabled adults.

At an average of 3.5 people per household, the distribution will provide the holiday meal and more to approximately 2,400 people.

And with just seven weeks remaining until the holiday, Murphy said, “It’s the season to get ready and start preparing for our neighbors in need at Thanksgiving and we want to be proactive in bringing this need to the attention of our community.”

Speaking to the significance of the holiday, he said, “even in the midst of the pandemic, we can not ignore the season of Thanksgiving where in this country families sit down and enjoy a meal with each other and take a moment to be thankful.

“At Good Samaritan Ministries, we believe every family should have the opportunity to participate in Thanksgiving because it builds that family’s nucleus. It shapes the lives of children and youth and adolescents to have that experience.

“We believe every child should have a Thanksgiving. And we don’t want any family to sit at a table and stare at empty plates. We want them to be able to share in a moment of thanksgiving with their loved ones.”

For those who wish to help, a $45 sponsorship donation will provide a turkey and large holiday food box for one family, or a fully prepared turkey with all the traditional holiday sides for delivery to the home of a senior.

For those who wish to donate items for the food boxes, the most needed items include instant potatoes, canned green beans, canned cranberry sauce and boxed stuffing mix.

Donated items may be dropped off at the Good Samaritan Ministry building at 100 N. Roan St., Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-noon or 1-4 p.m.

Monetary donations to Good Samaritan Ministries earmarked for Thanksgiving may be made online at www.goodsamjc.org or by mail to Good Samaritan Ministries, P.O. Box 2441, Johnson City, TN 37605.

For more information about how to help with the drive, call 423-928-0288.