FEAST set to donate 1,500 Christ­mas din­ners

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - FRONT PAGE - By Corinna Vla­hoyian­nis

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.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — FEAST

FEAST Pres­i­dent and founder John Clauss pre­pares Thanks­giv­ing meals.

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