Enid, Okla. — As families gather today for Thanksgiving, some of those less fortunate are reminding others of reasons to give thanks, even when times are hard.
Some of those in need were lined up outside Loaves & Fishes of Northwest Oklahoma on Tuesday, waiting to shop at the food resource center before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Shawn Boulter and her husband, Kevin Boulter, were among those waiting, among the 750-800 families Loaves & Fishes serves each month. The Boulters have been coming to the pantry for two years to help with food costs, so they have enough left to pay for utilities, housing and other bills.
Kevin said they were thankful for the rare opportunity to see family members this week. They’ve been working for months to save up gas money to make the 240-mile trip to their nearest family for Thanksgiving.
“We don’t see them usually all year,” Kevin said, “but this month, with Thanksgiving, we get to see them.”
The Boulters said they’re especially thankful for the work done by Loaves & Fishes to help out those in need.
“They’re important,” Kevin said. “They help out a lot of the community, and some of the churches also lend a hand.”
“If this wasn’t here, there would be a lot more problems with people not having food,” Shawn added.
When the couple receives groceries they can’t use, due to their diabetes, or if they have extra, they see it as an opportunity to bless others who are struggling to put food on the table.
“We’ve been there, so we know what it’s like,” Kevin said, “and we try to share whatever we have.”
Diana Russell, who was waiting in line behind the Boulters, said she’s also thankful when she has an opportunity to share what she’s received.
“If I get any extra, I know a few older people, and if I can I give it to them,” Russell said. “I’m thankful to be able to help them.”
Russell has been coming to Loaves & Fishes since the food resource center opened in 2012. She said she’s thankful Loaves & Fishes has been there to help her through some tough financial times, especially during and after her divorce two years ago.
“Sometimes you need help with food, and when you have hard times,” Russell said, “and I’m glad they’re here.”
Even when times are tough, Russell said she still has reasons to give thanks, especially for her husband, Willie Russell. The couple married last June.
“He takes care of me, and I take care of him,” Russell said. “As long as we have a roof over our heads, we’re thankful, because there are some people who are homeless.”
Robert Boswell knows about living on the street. He was waiting Wednesday morning outside Our Daily Bread, a food ministry of the Greater Enid Catholic Community.
Boswell said he comes to Our Daily Bread for a hot meal, in between searching for a job and helping his mom as much as he can. In a life of uncertainty, Boswell said he was “just thankful to still be here.”
“I’ve seen a lot of people on the street, and some of them don’t stick around too long,” Boswell said.
He said some homeless people are here one day, gone the next, and their friends often don’t know where they went.
“You never really know if they moved up to a better or life, or what,” Boswell said. “You just stop seeing them.”
But, Boswell said he doesn’t worry about the future. He’s just thankful for being able to eat this Thanksgiving, and he’s looking forward to any odd jobs that might enable him to help out his friends at Our Daily Bread.
“I try to help other people out before I help myself,” Boswell said. “We have to take care of each other.”
While many of Enid’s homeless don’t have blood relatives they can go home to, Boswell said they have a family amongst themselves.
“I’m thankful for my family down here,” he said. “They may not be my blood, but they’re still family.”
Kieron Henstridge recently joined that family. He started coming to Our Daily Bread about a month ago, after most of his belongings were stolen while he was living on the street.
Henstridge said he’s trying to earn enough money to make it back home to Montana. In the meantime, he said he’s thankful for the food and fellowship he’s found in Enid.
“I’m just thankful for all the people here,” Henstridge said, “and being able to stay alive and have a happy Thanksgiving week and a happy year.”
Henstridge said he was particularly looking forward to sharing today’s Thanksgiving meal, at the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church Leven Center, with his friend Charles Knight.
Knight, who’s been coming to Our Daily Bread off and on since 2005, said he has something to be thankful for every day.
“It’s just good being alive,” Knight said.
He said he’s thankful for any odd jobs he can get, for the meals at Our Daily Bread and a warm bed at the Mercy House homeless shelter.
Knight said there are a lot of people more well-off than him and his friends on the street. But, wealthy or poor, Knight said people should be thankful for, and take advantage of, the opportunity to find fellowship with each other.
“It’s just about gathering,” Knight said, “and being together.”