FEAST set to donate 1,500 Christmas dinners
WARRINGTON >> The equation for a holiday feast: turkey, potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, bread, gravy and dessert.
The equation for a holiday meal from FEAST: the ingredients above multiplied by 1,500.
FEAST — Feeding Everyone At Special Times — is a nonprofit organization that provides holiday meals for the needy at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. In addition to donating meals, the organization also provides winter coats during both cold weather holidays and Easter baskets during the Easter holiday.
“[FEAST’s mission] started with 100 meals at Thanksgiving. Then we thought, ‘That went pretty well. Why don’t we do it again at Christmas with 200 meals?’” said John Clauss, FEAST co-founder and president. According to Clauss, what was once just an idea born over a morning cup of coffee (originally named NJS Charity Fund) has grown into FEAST, which now boasts a multi-holiday mission. Since the organization’s inception in 2012, FEAST has provided ap-
proximately 20,000 meals and 2,000 winter coats to needy families during the holidays.
The organization serves the communities of Central Bucks and Eastern Montgomery counties, with most recipient families coming from the Central Bucks School District and local church communities.
“People are surprised [FEAST serves residents of] Bucks, as it is one of the wealthiest counties in Pennsylvania, but there are so many more people than you think who are in need,” said Clauss.
“One of FEAST’s hurdles was identifying people in need,” Clauss admitted, but after persistent outreach to local church and school communities, he said FEAST has become a trusted name in the local community.
Clauss, FEAST’s board chairman, is joined by FEAST board members Robert Abecasis, Kelly Capobianco, Colleen Fuchs, Richard Huttick and Heather Zadroga. Three times a year, this team turns FEAST’s mantra — “nobody goes unfed” — into a reality.
To prepare meals for this Christmas holiday, FEAST volunteers and board members will congregate in St. Robert’s Church in Warrington early in the morning on Dec. 23 to cook and prepare 1,500 meals.
“When we first started, we made each individual meal, but as we grew, we realized we need to be more efficient,” said Clauss. “Now we [serve meals] family style.”
Those receiving meals load their family sized portions into containers and bring FEAST’s home cooking to their own kitchen tables. According to Clauss, FEAST determines the eligibility of its meal recipients with only one qualification: that they show up to receive their meal.
At first, FEAST’s meals were bought completely out of pocket by Clauss and other volunteers. Now, however, FEAST has partnered with a bevy of local restaurants and businesses who sponsor and subsidize some of their costs.
Clauss said the fresh bread in their meals is donated by Liscio’s Bakery, pre-cooked turkeys are shipped and discounted by Michigan Turkey and other food supplies are discounted by Benjamin Foods.
For coat donations, FEAST receives donations from local community and corporate coat drives. In this effort, FEAST has a special partnership with Colonial Nissan, which, through a broader program organized by The Greater Philadelphia Automotive Organization, provides FEAST 150 coats annually.
Though FEAST is supported by local companies, Clauss said, “most of [FEAST’s] needs fall under monetary donations.”
“Anything you give goes directly to FEAST,” said Clauss.
“If you give to other charities, they are great and do a lot of good, but they have big administrative budgets. If I get a $100 donation, it goes directly into making meals,” he added.
FEAST is an organization that receives donations largely from word-of-mouth advertising. Clauss said he urges interested donors to go to FEAST’s website, HelpFEAST.com, to make an ongoing donation or a one-time gift.
Clauss explained that though FEAST is not in need of volunteers the day of its events, he urged people who wish to volunteer to become active in other ways, “[such as] identifying people in need, collecting winter coats and canned goods, helping with Easter baskets at Easter, helping with monetary donations and, of course, spreading the word.” To make donations of coats, canned goods, Easter baskets or other items, email FeastCharita[email protected]
Clauss shared that FEAST is also about to launch a new advertising campaign to spread the word about its mission. Though it has not launched yet, Clauss revealed the campaign’s basic premise: “For a dollar a day, you can help FEAST fund themselves for a year.”
Additionally, Clauss said he directs those who wish to receive a FEAST meal to fill out an online form at FeastCharitableOrg.com.
“We call it a handup not a handout,” said Clauss, referring to the organization’s meal distributions. “I had a lady one time [come to pick up a meal], and she was in tears. She said, ‘I used to help people, but I need somebody to help me this year.’ Then I was in tears, too.”
Clauss shared that FEAST meal recipients do not say they “would starve on Thanksgiving and Christmas,” but rather would “eat hot dogs [for Christmas] or ... not ... pay [their] electric bill” if not for their meal from FEAST.
“One of the things I always say is, ‘Fortunately FEAST is growing. Unfortunately, FEAST is growing,’” said Clauss.
“The ‘unfortunate’ part,” he explained, “is FEAST has to grow because there are people in need.”
Though the lesser known of the two Clauses on Christmas, John Clauss’ list is neither composed of who is naughty nor who is nice, but rather of who is in need. Instead of employing a team of busy elves, FEAST spreads the Christmas spirit with a team of dedicated volunteers sharing Clauss’ holiday wish: “Everyone should have leftovers.”
FEAST President and founder John Clauss prepares Thanksgiving meals.