SOUTH BEND - You don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to give thanks.
So, on Sunday, area residents gathered at the Century Center, not only to count their blessings but to mingle and learn about religions, cultures and ethnic groups other than their own. Many of the 200 or so on hand were in a giving mood as well, dropping off canned goods for the Broadway Christian Food Bank in South Bend.
“The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, all we had to eat was one small can of tomato soup. My mother watered it down so she could feed her kids,’’ said Boerstler, who was 7 at the time. “We had no food banks, no government services and my mother had no running vehicle.
“And there was no running water or electricity. It had been turned off.’’
Boerstler said her mother told her to keep the faith. She did, she said, and when she got home from school the next day, she discovered her school’s two school-bus drivers had delivered the family two large turkeys, six boxes of stuffing, two 10-pound bags of potatoes and 15 boxes of canned goods.
Boerstler was asked how the drivers knew the family was in need.
“I guess because we always wore the same clothes,’’ she said.
From that point on, the family’s fortunes turned around, with her mother obtaining a pickup truck from a friend and finding work at an adult day-care facility. It’s proof, she said, that faith can work miracles.
Buying into that message Alderson Robinson, 75, of Mishawaka. A member of the Baha’i Faith, he said he’s blessed personally but he has encountered any number of people in these difficult economic times who aren’t as fortunate.
“I tell people to keep the faith, don’t give up. Things will change,’’ he said.
Rabia Shariff, of Granger, a member of the Islamic Society of Michiana and a URC board member, said the panhandlers she has observed the last several years are evidence the economy has taken a toll.
“I’d seen them (panhandlers) in warm-weather states but not here. This recession, it’s hit everyone hard,’’ she said. “When you see it, your humanity kicks in.’’
The best way to improve their lot, she said, is to provide them with certificates from grocery stores or restaurants to make certain donations are used the proper way, she said.
Wendy Chapman, 38, of South Bend, said she attended Sunday’s pre-Thanksgiving event with children, Corin, 11, and Padraig, 5, in part to teach them the importance of sharing. The family gathered up some of their canned goods before leaving the house, she said.
“I do a lot of service work. The boys are learning not everybody has what we have,’’ she said. “We need to take care of these people as well.’’
Staff writer Lou Mumford: