This year, GMHC is again celebrating Thanksgiving from afar due to COVID-19, and the Meals and Nutrition staff are preparing bountiful Thanksgiving meal bags to help clients have a satisfying feast.
“We can’t offer the onsite meal we would typically have, but we want to make sure our clients can still celebrate and have one less thing to stress about—a good meal,” said Grace Holihen, the Meals and Nutrition program director.
“When we live in a world that is so turbulent, having this meal as a constant that clients can rely on provides a sense of security and tradition, which is important to GMHC,” said Holihen.
She is expecting about 300 people for this year’s Thanksgiving Grab and Go food distribution, which will occur on Nov. 17 and Nov. 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at GMHC’s lobby at 307 West 38th Street.
Meanwhile, the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) Hub staff organized a special, in-person Transgiving gathering for its members that was safe and socially distanced. The BBQ dinner and workshop on Nov. 10 featured special guest Lili Washington who discussed self-care, resiliency, healthy relationships and issues affecting the trans community.
For the Thanksgiving Grab and Go food distribution, GMHC is offering an abundant selection of delicious and nutritious food for both clients and the public. Each patron can pick up two bags of locally grown fresh produce from Headwater Farms and Rock Steady Farm, along with dairy products, shelf stable food—and a special bag of classic Thanksgiving fixings that includes stuffing, cornbread and gravy mixes, pumpkin puree, broth, soup, olive oil, canned greens, pecans and marshmallows.
“It’s a full grocery store haul,” Holihen said. “While the food is pre-packaged, we encourage patrons to bring carts and reusable bags!”
Ordinarily, GMHC prepares a special communal Thanksgiving meal for clients in its dining room, which includes a placemat for each guest signed with caring messages from supporters.
GMHC is continuing that tradition remotely by enclosing a placemat in each bag of Thanksgiving fixings. “Our clients are often older and living alone, which can be isolating,” Holihen said, so the well wishes from the GMHC community help them know they’re not so alone.
“May you have a comforting and filling Thanksgiving,” says one. “You are uniquely YOU and that is something to be CELEBRATED. You are amazing, gorgeous, gifted and special. Thanks for being you!!”
“Thinking of you at this time of year, and always! May you enjoy the day and fellowship with others. You are not alone!” another says.
GMHC is also providing clients $15 TD Bank gift cards to purchase their protein of choice, whether turkey or tofu. The gift cards have proven popular. They were available, thanks to a special $5,000 grant from Empire BlueCross BlueShield (an Anthem company), to the first 333 clients to sign up and were allotted in just a day and a half, Holihen said, adding that they were mailed to clients Nov. 10, in time for the holidays.
The TGNC Hub started holding its own Transgiving gathering in 2018 but had to cancel it last year because of COVID-19. “We were really sad about that, because we love to bring the community together,” said Community Health Director Melvin Bruce. “This year we found a way.”
The Transgiving community dinner and workshop, at Dallas BBQ Restaurant near GMHC’s Manhattan offices, was socially distanced with about 30 Hub members for an event space that holds 75 people.
Ordinarily the TGNC Hub’s transmasculine clients participate in its Translation group, while transfeminine clients are part of the Evolution group, so the Transgiving gathering allows “the entire TGNC community to be together and have that unity with each other,” Bruce said.
“Our clients may be going through separate challenges, but we are still under one umbrella of community and support,” he said.
TGNC Hub Coordinator Gabriel Resendez and Peer Navigation Specialist Catherine Granum organized the event, which featured a presentation by Washington, whom Bruce called “an empowering and inspiring person for the community.”
Washington is a self-taught makeup artist and stylist, who used her cosmetics talent and style sense to turn her life around after earlier struggles with drugs and alcohol. She launched YBLimited Mobile Glam Team in 2013, including her own lip gloss and skincare line, and has gone on to become a fashion model, motivational speaker and actor.
“Our group loves Lili,” Bruce said. “She makes them feel anything is possible. More than anything, what a lot of our group members are looking for is that hope and inspiration.”