A heartfelt "thank you" was uttered often Friday outside The Portico at St. John's Catholic Church.
A thank you came when Carroll residents received a 14-pound turkey. Another when they received a box packed with non-perishable goodies, from mashed potatoes to cans of corn, cranberry sauce, stuffing and more. And another as they left with the ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal that might not have been possible without United Way of Central Maryland's annual Harvest of Plenty.
For 21 years, the nonprofit has distributed Thanksgiving meal boxes to low-income families in central Maryland. This year, they gave out 3,600 in the region, including 100 in Carroll. It's the fourth year Carroll residents have been recipients, and Ann Thomas, of the Carroll County Department of Social Services, saw something new this year.
There was a waiting list for turkeys 20-people long. Some came hoping to pick up boxes who weren't on the list of 100 recipients, and Thomas, a DSS adult service case worker, said she had to refer those residents to Carroll County Food Sunday.
Evidently, Thomas said, there's a huge need for this service in the county. More than 4 percent of Carroll residents receive food stamps and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, according to the 2007 to 2011 American Community Survey.
The list of residents who would receive a Thanksgiving distribution box was generated in collaboration with Head Start, DSS and from residents who called United Way of Central Maryland's 2-1-1 call center, a hotline that provides information and referrals to individuals in need year-round.
Joe Bach, a United Way Carroll County board member, handed Jordan Rodriguez-Barros a 14-pound turkey, helping the 4-year-old carry it to his mother's car.
Their Thanksgiving Day is going to be packed with family - likely about 17 people - said Jordan's mom, Kerri Simms. They'll be heading to Jordan's grandmother's house in Eldersburg, and Simms said she likes to receive the free meal box so that she can help out.
"I always say, 'I'll bring the turkey,'" she said.
Others came and went during the pickup from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the side of The Portico, with a line of people waiting 15 minutes before the distribution began.
The local Head Start, which helps children from low-income families prep for kindergarten, came to pick up boxes for some in the program, which it will distribute directly to the families' homes. Chelsea's Gentle Care will cook several meals for families who are homebound or don't have a kitchen, bringing the food directly to their homes on Thanksgiving Day, Thomas said.
By 12:30 p.m., there were only about 30 left for pickup. Most of the 14-pound turkeys and Thanksgiving Day ingredients had disappeared, to be cooked, chopped, whisked and stirred in just a few days' time.